The issue of acquiring another VIP aircraft has again come to the fore following a technical problem that kept the Presidential BBJ Inkwazi grounded in Burundi last week.
While President Jacob Zuma and four other African heads of state were attempting to bring some semblance of peace to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s country, the SA Air Force (SAAF) Command Post scrambled to ensure availability of another suitable aircraft to bring the President and his entourage home safely.
Department of Defence head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, said the safety and security of the President was not compromised in any way by the problem. The only Falcon 900 operated by the SAAF VIP squadron was tasked with the flight to Burundi and landed safely back at AFB Waterkloof on Saturday with Zuma.
The March 31 deadline for the arrival of another addition to the VIP fleet apparently set by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, according to Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford, is fast approaching. There is no indication of a request for offer (RfO) being issued by Armscor with the defence and security acquisition agency saying it was waiting for instructions from the client – the SAAF – to respond before an RfO can be issued.
The Minister has cited the need for more VIP aircraft a number of times over the past three years and in 2013 informed the National assembly during her budget vote she had National Treasury approval for the acquisition.
Last November Armscor issued a Request for Information (RfI) for an “inter-continental air transport system” again putting VIP aircraft acquisition in the spotlight.
This led to an unknown number of RfIs being received and these were evaluated by Armscor with the results forward to the SAAF for further action.
Zuma has said his engagements in Burundi were productive and fruitful. He led the African Union (AU) High Level Delegation sent to assist in strengthening the peace process.
The delegation included the Presidents of Senegal, Gabon, Mauritania and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
The AU will deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military monitors to Burundi to monitor the situation.