R16m for flights to pay Cas­tro re­spects

CityPress - - News - – Erika Gibson, Rap­port

The South African govern­ment’s homage to the de­ceased for­mer Cuban pres­i­dent Fidel Cas­tro cost tax­pay­ers R16 mil­lion this week.

This is what not just one, but two char­tered flights on a lux­u­ri­ous Gulf­stream V from an An­golan char­ter com­pany cost to take two South African del­e­ga­tions to Cuba and back.

In the mean­time, pres­i­den­tial jet Inkwazi stands un­used at the Air Force Base Waterk­loof be­cause the au­thor­i­ties don’t have con­fi­dence in the jet’s safety.

If Inkwazi had been used for the Cuba flights, the govern­ment would just have had to pay for fuel and other mi­nor costs of about R2 mil­lion per flight.

Just the hire of the An­golan jet – with­out fuel, land­ing fees and ac­com­mo­da­tion – cost R5.3 mil­lion per flight.

Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma was the first to fly to Havana be­fore dawn on Tues­day. Be­fore that, the jet was spe­cially flown from there to Waterk­loof, also at a cost to the state.

In­sid­ers in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try and the air force said a sin­gle crew flew the 16-hour trip from Luanda to Cuba, con­trary to the air force’s own safety reg­u­la­tions.

Th­ese reg­u­la­tions stip­u­late that, af­ter such a long flight, a crew must rest for at least the num­ber of hours the flight lasted, or the re­turn flight must be op­er­ated by a dif­fer­ent crew.

Zuma ar­rived in Cuba on Tues­day and paid his re­spects. Early on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, he was on his way back again.

On Fri­day evening, the same jet at the same cost de­parted with defence min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and sev­eral gen­er­als who were to at­tend Cas­tro’s of­fi­cial fu­neral to­day.

There are more ques­tions sur­round­ing the use of the An­golan jet. Trea­sury pre­scripts re­gard­ing the hire of VIP jets (ten­der RT61) stip­u­late that only ap­proved South African sup­pli­ers may be used for char­tered flights. There is no ap­proved ten­der for the use of the Gulf­stream.

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