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R1.6bn VIP jets an outrageous extravagance - David Maynier

DA MP says military or chartered aircraft should only be used in exceptional circumstances

Brand new R1.6bn VIP jets are an outrageous extravagance

It is an outrageous extravagance for President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to each have dedicated long-range business jets, at the cost of R1.6 billion, operated for their exclusive use, by the South African Air Force (SAAF).

These new business jets will be in addition to "Inkwazi" - the existing Boeing Business Jet used by President Jacob Zuma (see Sunday Times report).

The fact is that it is simply wrong to spend R1.6 billion on business jets when millions of people in our country do not have housing, health or access to basic services. And these are no ordinary airplanes.

A user requirement statement, used for the controversial R800 million Embraer Linaege 1000 business jet lease deal, gives some insight into the luxury requirements envisaged for the aircraft. The cabin specifications, for example, include:

  • "private twin sleeping accommodation for one/principle VIP, which includes toilet, sufficient on-board baggage storage and wardrobe facilities. This area must preferably be fitted with a shower and be portioned from the main passageway and other passenger areas to provide total privacy";
  • "adequate secure communications facilities for computer, fax and satellite communication, preferably with a separate enclosed and noise proof workstation area.
  • "preferably private conference area for up to six people to facilitate en route meetings. A second conference/lounge area for up to six people would be preferred."

The president, deputy president and ministers should only be using military aircraft or charted aircraft in the exceptional circumstances set out in the Ministerial Handbook which include:

  • if there are time constraints in reaching the destination by vehicle or scheduled commercial flights due to other official duties;
  • If the safety of passengers so demands;
  • If the facilities of commercial airlines are not cost-effective and/or readily available in the specific instance; and
  • For health reasons.

If the guidelines, set out in the Ministerial Handbook, were adhered to, there would be limited demand for military flights, and therefore there would be no need for the purchase of new business jets.

I have, in the past, requested hearings on the SAAF's Squadron 21, which provides transport to VIPs, as well as the controversial R800 million Embraer Linaege 1000 business jets lease agreement. However, parliament has, up until now, preferred to turn a blind eye to the chaos and possible corruption relating to VIP flights provided by the SAAF.

I will, therefore, write to Jerome Maake, Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, to schedule a hearing with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, to provide a full and comprehensive briefing on the:

  • planned acquisition of two new long-range business jets for President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the cost of R1.6 billion; 
  • termination of the R800 million Embraer Linaege 1000 business jet lease agreement; and
  • what is being done to resolve the general chaos in the SAAF's VIP Transport Squadron.

When it comes to state-funded luxury for President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the sky really is the limit.

Statement issued by David Maynier MP, DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, November 6 2011

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