Court: State must pay R830m for jets
THE Department of Defence has been forced to honour the R830-million deal to lease two luxury jets for former president Jacob Zuma and his then deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, from a Lanseria aircraft charter company.
After protracted litigation, North Gauteng High Court Judge Norman Davis has declared that the agreement between Adonai Aviation, which trades as AdoAir, and the department to lease two Global Express XRS jets to transport the president, his deputy and other VVIPs, was binding.
The deal was first negotiated in 2011. A Global Express XRS jet is worth US$45m (over R564m) and AdoAir had already paid a R31.5m deposit for both aircraft.
In a scathing judgment delivered last Thursday, Judge Davis said the failure to enter into the five-year lease deal with AdoAir, which is part Nigerian-owned, resulted in Zuma and Motlanthe, and their successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was deputy president from 2014, being flown around the world in expensive chartered flights in civilian aircraft piloted by civilian pilots from a civilian airport.
“Apart from the huge costs and security risks, the charter company used was foreign-owned, and in fact one of the bidders who had scored less than the plaintiff (AdoAir) in the bid evaluation process,” reads Judge Davis’s judgment.
AdoAir beat all its rivals and met all the requirements, but successive secretaries of defence, Mpumi Mpofu and the incumbent, Dr Sam Gulube, refused to sign the agreement.
Under Gulube, who replaced Mpofu in December 2011, the reasons given for why the department refused to sign the lease were that the deal contravened the Public Finance Management Act and did not comply with Treasury regulations. Judge Davis said he was not convinced that Gulube had read all the documents that existed before his appointment.
“He sought to reinvent the proverbial wheel and recommence a procurement integrity process on vague and unsubstantiated grounds,” the judge found.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the sole defendant in the case, said she canned the deal because it was invalid and unenforceable. Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesperson yesterday referred enquiries to the department’s Siphiwe Dlamini, who failed to respond.