Defence Minister to face questions on VIP aircraft charters – again


If past response is anything to judge by, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will not adequately answer questions about the latest VIP charter flight, this one to Japan by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in a new, super luxury bizjet owned by a Gupta associated company.

Both the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have, by way of statements, indicated they want the Minister to tell Parliament and the nation why Ramaphosa used the privately owned Bombardier Global Express 6000 (ZS-OAK) rather than another SAAF 21 Squadron VIP aircraft or even the national carrier, SAA.

Earlier this year Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament: “As previously indicated in response to repeated similar questions, the Ministry and the Department (of Defence) deems all information relating to the movement of the President and relevant operational planning requirements as security sensitive.
“This information will not be made public and will be submitted to Parliament through a Parliamentary channel that protects such information.”

EFF acting national spokesman Lehlohonolo Fana Mokoena said in a statement the party had written questions to the ministers of Defence and Finance “seeking clarity on whether proper procurement processes were followed in granting the contract to a company owned by friends of the president and his son.
“We abhor the flourishing normalisation of corruption under President Zuma, wherein those close to the president and the ANC get huge government contracts under questionable circumstances.”

Similarly, DA shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said questions would be submitted to Mapisa-Nqakula on the ZS-OAK charter, reputed to have cost in the region of R5 million.

He wants to know “exactly why” the deputy president had to make use of a private charter when he has a State allocated one; why Ramaphosa and his delegation did not make use of the national airline; whether Exeujet, an approved supplier of services to government in terms of the RT61-2014 Requirements of Contract, adhered to its contractual obligations as regards leasing the aircraft and what the total cost of the flights to and from Japan is.

The aircraft that flew Ramaphosa and his party to Japan is owned by Westdawn Investments, a Gupta company with interests in various business and economic sectors, and is operated on its behalf by Lanseria-based Execujet.

Another Bombardier Global Express 6000 has recently arrived in South Africa. It is registered to Fortune Air which owns and operates the Boeing 727 ZS-PVX which has flown President Zuma and his entourage to various destinations. As with Execujet, Fortune Air is a registered service supplier in terms of RT61-2014. Execujet regularly leases aircraft to the SAAF for VIP flights, typically a Gulfstream V or Bombardier Global Express.

This morning the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans announced that Mapisa-Nqakula will hold an urgent media briefing to address issues around the Deputy Presidents’ official trip to Japan at Air Force Base Waterkloof on Friday.

The South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron operates a fleet of VIP/VVIP aircraft, including a Boeing BBJ, a Falcon 900 and two Falcon 50s. Normally president Jacob Zuma flies on the BBJ (ZS-RSA ‘Inkwazi’) and the deputy president and senior cabinet ministers will fly on board the Falcon 900 and other aircraft if the routes are suitable. Aircraft are chartered when the 21 Squadron aircraft are unavailable or when those that are available are unsuitable.