Court: State must pay R830m for jets

The Mercury - - NEWS - Loy­iso Sidimba

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.

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