Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is insistent a new VVIP aircraft will be acquired for the SA Air Force (SAAF) but the silence is golden rule appears to apply when it comes to the actual acquisition.
State defence and security acquisition agency Armscor this week said in response to a defenceWeb enquiry on the lease tender for a VVIP aircraft: “The outcome of the process will be communicated publicly once the entire process has been finalised”.
defenceWeb’s enquiry was prompted by no meaningful response to earlier questions asked about the acquisition of another VIP aircraft, apparently to replace 21 Squadron’s existing flagship, the BBJ Inkwazi. At that time Armscor indicated it had analysed the requests for information and submitted its response to the client – the SAAF.
No public statements were issued as regards purchase of either a new or previously owned VIP jet at the time that tender closed and the subsequent issue of another Armscor tender, this one for the leasing of a VIP aircraft, appears to indicate no suitable bids were submitted.
Mapisa-Nqakula is reported as saying government will buy a new VVIP jet for the Presidency. She stressed the new aircraft would not just be for President Jacob Zuma.
“There will be a president after Zuma…there will be another president after Zuma retires in 2019, even if he is from another party. The VVIP aircraft will still be there,” she is quoted as saying during a media briefing ahead of her budget vote in the National Assembly this week.
She also refuted the R4 billion price tag associated with the new acquisition saying no actual figure had yet been mentioned.
“We would never say we will spend R4 billion on an aircraft. Not when South Africans are starving and students are calling for fees to fall,” she is quoted as saying.
She also said it was originally planned to get the new jet by March but this deadline had been missed.
Government, according to her, was now preparing to lease a suitable aircraft while waiting to buy a new one.
A statement issued hours later by opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party leader Mmusi Maimane called on Zuma “to publicly reverse his own government’s decision to purchase a new presidential jet, which will cost the South African taxpayer an estimated R4 billion”.
“The DA has long-held the President does not need a new jet – either leased or purchased – while the current presidential jet, Inkwazi, remains, in terms of aircraft standards, relatively new.”