Zuma’s new jet hov­er­ing – min­is­ter

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

PLANS to buy a new jet for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma are in the “pre­lim­i­nary” stages, says De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe MapisaNqakula, and rou­tine main­te­nance on the ex­ist­ing plane has cost up­wards of R60 mil­lion.

The min­is­ter was re­spond­ing to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion from DA MP David Maynier, who had asked for in­for­ma­tion about how many air­craft would be bought, the bud­get, and the rea­son for their pur­chase.

In her re­sponse, the min­is­ter wrote that “the Depart­ment of De­fence is plan­ning to ac­quire the re­quired VVIP air­craft ca­pa­bil­ity sub­ject to avail­abil­ity of funds. Plans are still at the pre­lim­i­nary stage.”

The cur­rent Boe­ing Busi­ness Jet named Inkwazi, was bought by then-pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki in 2002 for R600m. MapisaNqakula said that jet had com­pleted 5 772.8 fly­ing hours, and ma­jor rou­tine main­te­nance checks or “c-checks” in 2008 and 2011 had cost a com­bined R61m.

The cabi­net ap­proved the ac­qui­si­tion of a new VVIP air­craft in Novem­ber 2011, the min­is­ter told par­lia­ment dur­ing her bud­get vote ear­lier this year.

The national Trea­sury had ap­proved the fund­ing, and the air­craft could be pur­chased this fi­nan­cial year.

Mapisa-Nqakula told re­porters the next day the pur­chase of the VVIP air­craft was ur­gent.

“We’re run­ning out of time,” she said, in­di­cat­ing that her depart­ment was spend­ing mil­lions of rands on char­ter­ing flights for troops and VIPS.

Sev­eral in­ci­dents in­volv­ing VVIP trans­port have made head­lines for the wrong rea­sons.

Inkwazi had to turn back on its maiden flight in Jan­uary 2003, mak­ing Mbeki late for a meet­ing in Paris when 200km into the flight, pi­lots heard a noise and turned back. Be­cause the plane was full of fuel, it had to first cir­cle for three hours be­fore it could land safely. It was dis­cov­ered that a flap which sealed the doors had mal­func­tioned. Al­though this was quickly fixed, a fuel in­take valve mal­func­tioned be­fore the flight could take off, spilling two tons of fuel on to the run­way, which then needed to be cleared be­fore take-off.

In 2009, Deputy Pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe had to make an emer­gency land­ing in the DRC af­ter prob­lems with his jet, and in 2011 emer­gency ser­vices were on stand-by for his land­ing in New Zealand af­ter prob­lems were ex­pe­ri­enced on the jet just be­fore land­ing.

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