R16m for flights to pay Castro respects
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.