The Presidency has entered the fray around the apparent non-use of Inkwazi by South Africa’s first citizen saying President Jacob Zuma would “prefer” using SA Air Force (SAAF) aircraft.
Presidency spokesman Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said in a statement both Zuma and vice president Cyril Ramaphosa would rather make use of SAAF aircraft when travelling locally, continentally and internationally on government business.
“Allegations made by aviation experts in the media that President Zuma prefers chartered aircrafts (sic) are not true.
“The president and deputy president utilise aircraft provided by the SAAF. Currently both have been transported in chartered aircraft locally and abroad due to non-availability of reliable aircraft within the SAAF fleet.
“The Presidency agrees with the experts that the use of smaller aircraft for local travel and the general use of the SAAF fleet rather than hiring aircraft would be more cost-effective for government,” he said.
Speaking a day before AAD 2016 opened its doors for business earlier this week, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the Presidential Boeing 737 bizjet was now 15 years old.
“Three years ago it was flying 300 hours a year and that has now reached the 600 hour mark,” she said in support of her assertion that South Africa urgently needed another VVIP aircraft.
She also pointed out that problems had been experienced at various times with the Presidential aircraft and these, along with other challenges experienced by the SAAF’s VIP transport squadron, 21, were currently the subject of a board of enquiry headed by retired air force general Cedric Masters.
defenceWeb has been reliably informed Inkwazi’s availability record stands at 98%, a point the media experts referred to Ngqulunga say is exceptionally good when comparing it flying hours to that of commercial airlines.
“That the aircraft is 15 years old is no indictment. In fact given its flying hours and the cycles done in that time it should still be in excellent condition,” one said with the proviso that “maintenance is done properly and in accordance with the original equipment manufacturer’s specifications”.