SAAF has chartered 55 flights costing R76 million over last three years

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The South African Air Force has spent R76.2 million chartering 55 flights for VIPs over the last three years, according to information from the Department of Defence. Its own aircraft have conducted 814 VIP flights over the same period, at a cost of R217 million.

The information came to light in response to a series of parliamentary questions posed by the Democratic Alliance and answered by outgoing Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu.

In total, between 2009 and May 2012, the South African Air Force conducted 869 VIP flights, either by its own or chartered aircraft, at a total cost of R293 million.

Normal
0

SAAF chartered flights

Year

 

Airbus

Boeing 727

Citation

Global Express

Total

2009/2010

 

0

3

0

0

3

2010/2011

 

0

4

1

5

10

2011/2012

 

1

19

0

20

40

From April 1, 2012

 

0

2

0

0

2

Total

1

28

1

25

55

 

SAAF chartered flight costs

Year

 

Airbus

Boeing 727

Citation

Global Express

Total

2009/2010

 

R0.00

R3 631 586.18

R0.00

R0.00

R3 631 586.18

2010/2011

 

R0.00

R7 939 642.81

R93 502.83

R13 875 434.89

R21 908 578

2011/2012

 

R4 558 196.00

R17 081 947.58

R0.00

R26 257 382.18

R47 897 525

From April 1, 2012

 

R0.00

R2 839 658.66

R0.00

R0.00

R2 839 658.66

Total

R4 558 196.00

R31 492 883

R93 502.83

R40 132 816

R76 277 347

Since 2009 the South African Air Force conducted 606 VIP flights using aircraft from 21 Squadron (BBJ, Falcon 900, Falcon 50) and 208 flights using aircraft from reserve squadrons (Citation, DC-9, Gulfstream II, Gulfstream III, Hawker, Premier). The 606 VIP flights conducted by 21 Squadron aircraft cost R143 156 838, while the 208 flights conducted by SAAF reserve squadrons cost a total of R74 103 469.

David Maynier, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Defence, called the figures “staggering”. “It is entirely possible that the figures provided do not reflect the total cost of providing VIP flights. I will, therefore, be submitting follow-up questions to the newly appointed Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, probing what aircraft were used and what the breakdown of expenditure was for each of the flights undertaken by President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the minister. We have to get to the bottom of what is really going on in the VIP transport section of the SAAF.”
“There is something seriously wrong with the South African Air Force’s 21 (VIP Squadron) which is responsible for the transport of VVIPs,” Maynier said.

The South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron flies a Falcon 900B, two Falcon 50s, two Cessna Citations and a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ – Inkwazi). The latter is the only intercontinental aircraft in the squadron. It spent three months in Switzerland last year undergoing maintenance and only arrived back in South Africa on December 21.

The information provided by the Department of Defence stated that Zuma undertook 286 flights aboard SAAF VIP aircraft and chartered jets since 2009, at a cost of R140.5 million. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, on the other hand, embarked on 213 flights in the same period, at a cost of R70 million, while former President Thabo Mbeki undertook 39 flights at a cost of R32.13 million. Sisulu, during this period, undertook 268 flights at a cost of R40 581 878.12.

These four individuals in total flew on 806 VIP flights, at a cost of R282 974 026.61, between 2009 and 2012.

The Department of Defence is busy looking for two new VIP aircraft for top government officials. The SAAF is busy working on the requirements for the new jets and will issue a tender once these have been finalised. Late last month Defence Department spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the leasing and purchase processes were ongoing and the department would communicate the details once the deals had been concluded.

In April 2011 it was announced that the South African Air Force (SAAF) would lease two Embraer Lineage 1000 VIP jets for five years from Ado Air, at a cost of US$120 million (R800 million). Then later in April it was announced that the lease plan was scrapped and the Air Force would instead on July 1 take delivery of a second Boeing Business Jet and a Bombardier Global Express XRS from ExecuJet.

That date came and went with no aircraft delivered. Then, on July 14 a request for quotation for a VIP transport lease was sent out to ExecuJet, SRS Aviation, Fortune Air, Interjet and Ado Air, with a return date of July 25. However, this was cancelled on August 5.

Last month Ado Air and the Department of Defence appeared in court to argue over the cancellation of the tender. Court documents stated that the department initially suspected tender irregularities but Defence Secretary Sam Gulube said the department is satisfied with the answers given and with the integrity of the procurement process, but added that there was confusion over the tender with Ado Air.

In November last year Mabaya said that, “We are going to buy a plane for the president….The new, bigger plane is going to be responsible for longer international trips such as [to] Europe and America. The current one [a Boeing Business Jet] will be used mainly for domestic regional trips so that when the one is resting, we make use of the other one because right now if the [BBJ] breaks down, we have to go out and rent a plane,” he said.



The search for new VIP aircraft follows a number of issues, including:

  • an emergency landing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo involving Motlanthe in 2009;
  • an emergency landing in New Zealand involving Motlanthe in 2011;
  • mechanical failure of a chartered aircraft resulting in the scrapping of one leg of a state visit to Finland, Sweden and Denmark involving Motlanthe in 2011;
  • the use of a controversial former mercenary pilot to fly a chartered aircraft to the United States involving Zuma in 2011;
  • a flawed R800 million tender to lease two Embraer Lineage 1000 business jets for the South African Air Force in 2011; and
  • the use of so-called shadow planes– a Bombadier Global Express XRS and an Airbus A340 (200 Series) – that were used to backup Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet during a recent visit to the United States.

    Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano in April last year said that it took “a lot of tender loving care” to maintain the current VIP transport fleet operated by 21 Squadron and that most aircraft were more than 30 years old. Finding new aircraft for VIPs, he said, had become “a necessity” due to the rising costs of maintenance.