Rugby flight costs R26m


Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s recent flight to New Zealand to attend the opening of the Rugby World Cup at the invitation of that country cost South African taxpayers some R26 million.

The Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans in answer to a parliamentary question said the aircraft cost R26 253 378 to hire. In addition, there were “recoverable costs” (relief crew, commercial flights, aircraft tracking, etc.) of R471 214.

The ministry last month hired a Bombardier Global Express from ExecuJet Aviation Group. The state BuaNews agency reported Motlanthe was on a working visit to New Zealand to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries. He also met the Springbok team in Wellington to give them moral support ahead of their opening World Cup game against Wales and later attended the match, which saw the Springboks win.

Asked why was it necessary to charter an aircraft, the ministry responded the SA Air Force “has only one long-range inter-continental aircraft, namely, the Boeing Business Jet which is reserved for the President. It is therefore standard practice to charter this capability as and when required. This is done in terms of National Treasury Contract RT 61.”

MoD Head of Media Services Ndivhuwo Mabaya at the time said it was standard practice to hire private jets, albeit not every day. “We hire them when the other ones are not working [broken],” he said. Broadcaster EWN said it understood Motlanthe’s regular aircraft, a Dassault Falcon 900, was in use in South Africa at the time. President Jacob Zuma will also be using a chartered Boeing 727 for the next three months as his official plane is being serviced.

The official opposition Democratic Alliance party in a statement said the “incident also raises questions as to why the deputy president could not have travelled to New Zealand on a commercial aircraft? This would not only have been a safe, but also a more economical option.”

The answer noted Motlanthe and company flew from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Perth on September 8, and on to Auckland the next day. On September 10, they flew from Auckland to Wellington and on September 11 from Wellington to Perth prior to returning to Pretoria the next day.