Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais says the increase in VIP flying hours allocated to the SA Air Force (SAAF) means there is just four thousand hours to cover all other missions and training.
He said Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has displayed an “unshakeable commitment to maintaining the luxurious lifestyle of Cabinet” because the allocation for VVIP flying hours is ring-fenced and approved by National Treasury.
Twenty percent of budgeted flying hours – a thousand – for the current financial year go to the VVIP and VIP function of 21 Squadron leaving four thousand to cover all other SAAF missions and training.
Marais was responding to an answer provided by the Minister to a parliamentary question and criticised her response. “As has become the norm with the ruling party in government, the Minister did not answer the question which was ‘How does the increase in the allocation of SAAF budgeted flight hours to VIP operations and the decrease in other force employment flight hours impact on the operational readiness of the SAAF?’
“Instead, she provided some insight into the bizarre logic behind the funding cut to our armed forces that simply comes down to keeping the President and those close to him in luxury while millions of South Africans languish in poverty.”
Speaking ahead of her budget vote in the National Assembly last month, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the acquisition of a new VIP aircraft must not be seen as being solely for President Jacob Zuma.
“There will be another president after him and he will also use the aircraft.”
The Department of Defence is currently looking to acquire another VIP aircraft. The Request for Information (RfI) issued last November by Armscor for an “inter-continental air transport system” states, among others, that the aircraft to be acquired can be either leased or bought outright with a number of maintenance options.
It goes on to say: “The SAAF has a need to increase their (sic) current capacity to provide inter-continental air transportation to members of the SA Government. This capacity is based on a single BBJ 737-700 NG IGW aircraft that has been fitted with a VIP interior with seating for 18 people. The aircraft is fitted with 8 auxiliary fuel tanks to extend payload/range to its maximum.”
Armscor last month indicated it was still evaluating submissions made in terms of its RfI, issued at the behest of the SAAF according to the government defence and security acquisition agency.