R50m spent on helicopter flights for VIPs - David Maynier

DA MP says since 2009 SAAF made 590 such flights, 228 of which were "ferry flights"

More than R50 million blown on 500 VIP helicopter flights, 200 of which were empty

Between 2009 and 2012 millions of rands have been spent on VIP helicopter flights, many of which were empty. For the first time the defence department has disclosed details about the transport of VIPs on-board helicopters operated by the South African Air Force (SAAF). 

Replies to a series of parliamentary questions reveal that between 2009 and 2012 the SAAF provided 590 helicopter flights for VIPs at the cost of R50 million.

The SAAF provided 147 VIP helicopter flights in 2009/10, 194 VIP helicopter flights in 2010/11, 211 VIP helicopter flights in 2011/12 and 38 VIP helicopter flights in 2012/13 as follows:













(Ferry Flights)












Of the 590 VIP helicopter flights, 228 VIP helicopter flights were "ferry flights".

That means there were no VIP passengers on board the VIP helicopter for 228 of the flights.

The total cost of the 590 VIP helicopter flights came to a staggering R50 million.

The 590 VIP helicopter flights cost R50 981 806.70 broken down as follows:

  • 362 VIP helicopter flights at the cost of R 44 822 319.60; and
  • 228 VIP helicopter "ferry flights" at the cost of R 6 159 487.10.

That is an average cost of about R85 000 per flight on VIP helicopters operated by the SAAF.

This follows revelations last week that R34.5 million had been spent on 700 "ferry flights" for VIPs on aircraft operated by the SAAF.

This included R 4.9 million that was spent on 58 "ferry flights" undertaken by the Boeing Business Jet ("Inkwazi") used by President Jacob Zuma
We do not have all the facts.

However, I suspect that a large number of the VIP helicopter flights were used to transport President Jacob Zuma from Durban International Airport to Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

I will, therefore, be submitting follow-up questions to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in order to determine who is using and possibly abusing the VIP helicopters operated by the SAAF.

I will continue to ask the tough questions about the millions of rands that have been wasted on flights for VIPs. 

However, I do welcome the statement made by the minister that she shares my concern about the high costs of VIP flights and recognizes that there is a need to be prudent with public funds.

Replying to a parliamentary question last week the minister stated that: 

"We share the concern relating to the high costs, particularly with regard to ferry flights. We intend to investigate how these could be reduced to the minimum. We want to ensure that the travel of VIPs, while it needs to be managed effectively, and with due consideration for the necessary security requirements, it is also done with a complete commitment to the prudent use of public funds. At the end of the day, as a Department, we are accountable for both."

This is a welcome change from former Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, who seemed to spend much of her time zooming around the country on VIP aircraft, including luxury Gulfstream business jets, operated by the SAAF.

Statement issued by David Maynier MP, DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, August 27 2012

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter