AFB Waterkloof Il-76 arrival criticised

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Last week’s arrival of a Russian Il-76 transport at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof is, according to two opposition political parties, not good for South African foreign relations.

Leading the charge is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, who called the landing of the aircraft, reportedly owned by US sanctioned Aviacon Zitotrans, “another apparent example of South Africa’s pro-Russian foreign policy”.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald called the arrival of the Il-76 “out of the ordinary” notwithstanding Minister Thandi Modise’s apparent permission being granted. He wants her to explain why a military base was used to deliver cargo, seemingly part of the diplomatic bag which exempts it from search, for the Russian Embassy. In support of Groenewald’s claim, a number of aviation enthusiasts point out the regular arrival of a US Air Force (USAF) C-17 at Lanseria International, west of Pretoria, delivering supplies and equipment for the US Embassy.

“AFB Waterkloof is a military base, not to be used for commercial purposes,” he said adding by way of explanation the Russian aircraft was “indeed a commercial one”.

Marais will ask Modise to explain why the aircraft was allowed to land at Waterkloof and “whether it is normal practice for goods to be brought in via air force bases for foreign missions in South Africa”.

“South Africa,” Marais said, “has a responsibility to ensure our airspace and military bases are not used for purposes in contravention of our laws and international obligations”.