The South African National Defence Force says President Jacob Zuma requires a new jet urgently as the current plane “is compromising his safety and it is embarrassing”.
This is according to The Sunday Times, after Zuma was unable to leave Burundi on Friday when the presidential Boeing, Inkwazi, developed technical problems.
The president was mediating in peace talks in the war-torn country.
The SANDF said it chartered a plane to Bujumbura from Waterkloof Air Force Base in the early hours of yesterday morning to fetch the president who returned home on Saturday, but only after deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to step in for Zuma on several local engagements.
Inkwazi was also grounded on a trip to Moscow last year, following mechanical difficulties.
The City Press reported in November that an acquisition process by Armscor aimed at providing president Jacob Zuma with a new VIP jet could cost up to R4 billion.
According to the report, the specifications for the jet include a “private bedroom suite, a bathroom, and a conference room for eight people”.
“The aircraft must be able to carry at least 30 passengers and have a range of 13,800km,” stated the report.
According to the report’s findings, there are only a handful of planes that match the tender’s requirements:
- A basic Boeing 777 which costs about R3.9 billion
- The Boeing 787 which costs about R3.1 billion
- The Airbus which A330 costs about R3 billion
- The Airbus A340 which costs about R3.1 billion
The defence force and Armscor rubbished the price tag, though, while Zuma said that South Africans have a tendency of sensationalising issues.
SANDF spokesman Simphiwe Dlamini said of the presidential plane: “This plane is compromising his safety and it is embarrassing.”
“We need it like yesterday. Not even tomorrow. It is very critical. This is not an isolated incident,” said Dlamini.
He said the outcry over the procurement of a new presidential jet was unwarranted. “It is not even for the president, it is for the state.”
The full report is in the Sunday Times of 28 February 2016.