Another Parliamentary question put to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has shown the SA Air Force (SAAF) “blew its budget” for VVIP and VIP transport by no less than R35 million in the 2016/17 financial year.
This is not all opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais was told by the Minister.
“For the 2015/16 period the air force also overspent the VVIP budget to the extent of R22.5 million. All told that is a total overspend in excess of R57 million in two financial years,” he said.
The Ministerial response to his question also show at least three “big ticket VVIP charters” which collectively cost t R12.5 million in the financial year that ended on March 31 this year.
“This is what happens when President Jacob Zuma refuses to fly on the perfectly functional presidential jet, Inkwazi.”
Earlier this month SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang indicated plans were underway to improve aircraft availability at 21 Squadron, the unit tasked with VVIP and VIP transport.
A lack of qualified maintenance and service personnel has seen low availability of aircraft including Inkwazi, a Falcon 900B and a Falcon 50. The situation was reportedly heading towards a complete grounding of all aircraft on the squadron’s inventory.
Speaking at a CSANDF briefing at AFB Waterkloof earlier this month Msimang said aircraft availability at 21 Squadron would be markedly better in six month time. This was because plans were in place and work was being done to ensure the air force had sufficient trained personnel to keep the VIP squadron’s aircraft airworthy.
“The only maintenance the SAAF will not be able to do itself is deep maintenance and this will be outsourced,” Msimang said. He did not respond when asked which aircraft were currently serviceable and which were expected to be airworthy during the course of next year.
Marais added he understood the mandate of the SAAF to transport the president, deputy president and other principals in a manner which guarantees their safety as well as ensuring on-time arrival for appointment at domestic and international destinations.
“I will be asking further questions to properly fulfil the oversight role and want the Minister to inform not only me, but also the National Assembly, which VVIPs were transported, whether or not they were on official business and who accompanied them.”