Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula might be “tired of waiting” for the acquisition of another VIP aircraft, according to Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford, but she will have to exercise more patience.
Government’s defence and security acquisition agency Armscor, in the person of its General Manager: Marketing And Business Development Lulu Mzili, this week said: “Armscor is awaiting further instructions from the client (the SA Air Force)” regarding the VIP acquisition.
Speaking at a media briefing at AFB Waterkloof following the Request for Information (RFI) in November, Wakeford said the acquisition process for another VIP aircraft for 21 Squadron went back to January 2012 when the Minister informed the National Assembly that funding had been approved by Treasury. The intent with the RFI was to finalise acquisition and delivery of another VIP aircraft by the end of March.
“Subsequent to the RFI issued in November, Armscor has assessed the information received and presented it to the SAAF. Armscor is awaiting further instructions,” she said.
This timeline now appears to be unattainable because, in the first instance and according to Mzili, “currently no Request for Offer (RFO)” has been issued.
Aviation industry insiders also point to an “extremely short time, currently less than three months, to finalise purchase of a suitable aircraft and have it fitted in VIP configuration as specified as the SAAF.
“Even if a suitable, used aircraft can be found there is no way its interior can be fitted to any level of VIP specification and be delivered before the end of March,” said one who preferred to remain anonymous.
Further impetus was given – inadvertently – to the new acquisition when a 21 Squadron aircraft could not fly Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa back from South Sudan in time to attend a gala function marking the ANC’s 104th anniversary last weekend. The aircraft, believed to be the Falcon 50, was delayed “due to technical problems” and Ramaphosa reportedly flew back to South Africa on a commercial flight.