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Zuma spent R140 million on VIP flights since 2009

altPresident Jacob Zuma has spent R140.5 million on VIP flights since 2009, flying 286 times aboard SAAF VIP aircraft and chartered jets, while deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe spent R70 million on 213 flights in the same period.

The information was provided by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu in response to a question posed by the Democratic Alliance’s Sheik Shahid Esau, a speaker in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament. The reply was dated May 18, but was only received following Sisulu’s departure as defence minister yesterday.

A total of 234 VIP flights were conducted by the South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron for Zuma, while 25 flights were conducted by SAAF Reserve squadrons and 27 flights were chartered.

Zuma’s flights cost R140 515 430.15, giving an average cost of R491 000 per flight.

Details of Zuma’s flights are as follows:

Year

 

21 Squadron

SAAF reserve squadrons

Chartered

Total

2009/2010

 

72

16

3

91

2010/2011

 

84

7

1

92

2011/2012

 

72

2

23

97

From April 1, 2012

 

6

0

0

6

Total

234

25

27

286



In response to another question by Esau, also dated May 18, the Minister of Defence stated that Motlanthe had embarked on 213 flights since 2009, which cost R69 746 680.47.

Details of Motlanthe’s flights are as follows:

Year

 

21 Squadron

SAAF reserve squadron

Chartered

Total

2009/2010

 

52

14

0

66

2010/2011

 

48

16

8

72

2011/2012

 

47

7

16

70

From April 1, 2012

 

3

0

2

5

Total

150

37

26

213



Former president Thabo Mbeki embarked on 39 flights between 2009 and 2011, at a cost of R32 130 037.87.

Details of Mbeki’s flights are as follows:

Year

 

21 Squadron

SAAF reserve squadron

Total

2009/2010

 

2

17

19

2010/2011

 

3

17

20

Total

5

34

39



In response to another question posed to Sisulu by Advocate L H Max of the Democratic Alliance, it emerged that Sisulu undertook 268 VIP flights from 2009, which cost R40 581 878.12.

Details of Sisulu’s flights are as follows:

Year

 

21 Squadron

SAAF reserve squadron

Chartered

Total

2009/2010

 

52

17

0

69

2010/2011

 

68

37

1

106

2011/2012

 

56

25

0

81

From April 1, 2012

 

12

0

0

12

Total

188

79

1

268


David Maynier, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Defence, called the figures “staggering”. He said that, “In the past the minister has refused to reply to parliamentary questions on the transport for VIPs. However, shortly after leaving office, parliament received a number of replies to a series of questions probing the VIP flights provided by the South African Air Force (SAAF).”

Maynier pointed out that Sisulu undertook 18 fewer flights than the president himself, on aircraft operated by the SAAF. “The minister blew an average of R151 424.91 on each flight, most of which must have been domestic flights. The fact is that the minister seems to have completely abused her privilege to use military aircraft for official purposes.”

“It is entirely possible that the figures provided do not reflect the total cost of providing VIP flights. I will, therefore, be submitting follow-up questions to the newly appointed Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, probing what aircraft were used and what the breakdown of expenditure was for each of the flights undertaken by President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the minister. We have to get to the bottom of what is really going on in the VIP transport section of the SAAF.”

Maynier earlier this year criticised the South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron (VIP Squadron) for a number of ‘bungles’, which include:

· an emergency landing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo involving Motlanthe in 2009;
· an emergency landing in New Zealand involving Motlanthe in 2011;
· mechanical failure of a chartered aircraft resulting in the scrapping of one leg of a state visit to Finland, Sweden and Denmark involving Motlanthe in 2011;
· the use of a controversial former mercenary pilot to fly a chartered aircraft to the United States involving Zuma in 2011;
· a flawed R800 million tender to lease two Embraer Lineage 1000 business jets for the South African Air Force in 2011; and
· the use of so-called shadow planes– a Bombadier Global Express XRS and an Airbus A340 (200 Series) – that were used to backup Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet during a recent visit to the United States.

“There is something seriously wrong with the South African Air Force’s 21 (VIP Squadron) which is responsible for the transport of VVIPs,” Maynier said.

Chief of the South African Air Force Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano earlier this year said that the SAAF in September 2011 had created a dedicated unit for managing VIP transport and that the newly established unit will see all VIP flight activities consolidated under a single command.

Air Force Base Waterkloof is home to 21 Squadron, which flies a Falcon 900B, two Falcon 50s, two Cessna Citations and a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). The latter is the only intercontinental aircraft in the squadron. It spent three months in Switzerland last year undergoing maintenance and only arrived back in South Africa on December 21.

Gagiano said that the SAAF is busy drawing up a memorandum of understanding with South African Airways (SAA) regarding the leasing of its aircraft for VIP flights.

In early December last year it was reported that the SA National Defence Force had asked SAA to provide alternative aircraft for Zuma and Motlanthe after a series of embarrassing mechanical problems, which have affected Motlanthe's aircraft since 2009, resulted in his missing an official trip to Finland.

The Department of Defence is busy looking for two new VIP aircraft for top government officials. The SAAF is busy working on the requirements for the new jets and will issue a tender once these have been finalised.

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