Answers to Parliamentary questions show the South African Air Force either directly through regular and reserve units or charter flights, authorised over 900 ferry flights for aircraft and helicopters since April 2009, costing some R40.5 million.
This includes some 691 fixed-wing ferry flights at a cost of R34.4 million and 228 helicopter flights at a cost of R6.1 million. Ferry flights are essentially flights without passengers aimed at positioning an aircraft for an assigned task. With the SAAF’s transport capability centralised at AFB Waterkloof for example, many of its assets, not just VIP or VVIP, need to be ferried to correctly align them with their taskings.
In answer to a string of parliamentary questions, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the R34.4 million broke down as follows:
>> 21 Squadron 21 (VIP Squadron) – R 13.5; SAAF
>> Reserve Force Squadrons) – R11. 4 million
>> Chartered – R9.5 million
The answers showed President Jacob Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet (“Inkwazi”) undertook 58 ferry flights at the cost of R4.9 million from April 2009 “to date”. Reserve Force Gulfstream business jets flew 249 ferry flights at the cost of R7. 5 million between 2009 and 2012 and an Airbus – most probably an Airbus A340-200 used to shadow President Jacob Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet during a recent trip to the United States – undertook two “ferry flights” at the cost of R4.6 million in the 2011/12 financial year.
Opposition Democratic Alliance party Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans David Maynier said in a statement millions of Rand was being wasted on hundreds of empty VIP flights. “This is probably as a result of poor planning as well as the high number of VIP flights. The Ministerial Handbook for Members of the Executive and Presiding Officers is clear: members of the executive may use military aircraft for official purposes under exceptional circumstances only. This is clearly not happening.”