Dr Sam Gulube, Secretary for Defence, more than three years ago confirmed acquisition of VVIP aircraft was considered a SCAMP (Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan) item and it could well be acquiring a mid-sized business jet to replace one of the two Falcons currently in the SAAF fleet will fall into the same category.
This takes into account what Democratic Alliance shadow defence minister, Kobus Marais, has said about the increase allocated to the Special Defence Account for the 2017/18 financial year.
“Estimated expenditure on the SDA, an account used for the procurement of weapons and equipment and to cover the costs of covert operations, is expected to increase by R1.53 billion. This is also almost exactly the same amount as that being mentioned in connection with a new presidential jet the Department of Defence is allegedly procuring,” he said.
“We haven’t been in touch with the Defence Department following this latest rumour, but we have looked at the budget and there’s only provision for the special accounts. It doesn’t say anything about buying an aircraft.”
Marais said the DA would submit further parliamentary questions to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to ascertain why expenditure on the SDA is being increased.
Speaking in Parliament in 2015 after Mapisa-Nqakula revealed that National Treasury had approved the purchase of an additional VIP aircraft, Gulube pointed out the proposed acquisition had been moved to SCAMP and no further details would be made public.
It now appears there is a Project Moeketsi registered, with a User Requirements Specification (URS) document out, but it has been classified as Secret by Defence Intelligence. Apparently the new regional jet will replace the Falcon 900 operated by the South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron.
Specifications, as confirmed by a document seen by the Sunday Times, call for an 18 seat aircraft able to travel 2 400 nautical miles.
“The possible increase in spending on a new presidential jet comes at a time when South Africa’s defence capabilities are severely hampered by a lack of funding and understaffing,” Marais said. He also pointed out the fact that the Presidential Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) is up to the task of transporting the President. “The DA has been reliably informed that the presidential jet, Inkwazi, is fully operational and has conducted at least 8 eight flights since the beginning of February this year.”
According to military analyst Darren Olivier, President Jacob Zuma refuses to fly on the BBJ, with neither the President or Deputy President using the aircraft between at least May 2016 and February 2017 although the aircraft is serviceable.