Extra costs for Harare flight likely to be “only a few thousand Rand”


A ruling party apology and offer to pay costs incurred in the now infamous ZS-NAN flight to and from Harare is not likely to boost government coffers by any considerable amount.

Darren Olivier, a reliable source for defence information and analysis on South Africa and Africa, sums it up as “probably only a few thousand Rand” the ANC will pay into a National Treasury account. “I expect it will go into the general budget rather than be ring-fenced specifically for the SAAF (SA Air Force).”

Given the general level of communication skills exhibited by the national defence force’s corporate communications directorate and the head of communications at the Department of Defence (DoD), expectations of official information being provided are as good as non-existent. This saw defenceWeb resort to Olivier who is also a director of African Defence Review (ADR) for informed comment.

At the outset, it must be clarified the SAAF does not charter its aircraft, he said, adding there were instances where South African military air assets are requested for specific mission with the United Nations as one example.

“My understanding is the SAAF’s non-internal reimbursement rate for the use of 21 Squadron aircraft is between R70 000 and R100 000 a flying hour. This applies only if the entire aircraft is used.

“I would hazard Minister (Nosiviwe) Mapisa-Nqakula was scheduled to fly to Harare so the cost to the ANC will be determined as a marginal additional expense of flying them rather than the entire flight cost. I do not expect that to be much at all, possibly only a few thousand Rand, to cover the small amount of extra fuel required, extra catering cost and extra administration costs for the additional passengers.

“Even if taking the ANC delegation saw the Falcon 900 used rather than the smaller Falcon 50 I don’t believe there will be any substantial difference, as SAAF operating costs and thus reimbursement rates of the aircraft are similar.

“In any case any payment would go to the national account managed by National Treasury and would probably go into the general budget rather than ring-fenced for the SAAF specifically,” he told defenceWeb.

Olivier makes a pertinent comment among calls for a panel of “aviation experts” to determine the cost of the AFB Waterkloof-Harare-AFB Waterkloof flight last week. This came from Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. At the same time Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald asked Minister Mapisa-Nqakula for “a detailed and specific account” of the ZS-NAN flight.

“The value of the promised repayment is mostly symbolic, both as admission of wrongdoing and recognition by the ANC that public sentiment has shifted to the point where there is far less willingness to tolerate abuse of state resources,” he said.