The “austerity” watchword guiding all aspects of SA Air Force (SAAF) operations as it battles with an extremely tight budget appears not to be a consideration when it comes to moving VIPs around.
More than R1,6 million was spent when the SAAF provided aircraft to fly President Jacob Zuma to Bazaruto in Mozambique for a weekend break.
This was made up of 21 Squadron’s Falcon 900, for the President and his personal entourage, as well as 27 flights by two Oryx helicopters, from 15 Squadron based at AFB Durban. A single helicopter flight is considered to be completed each time the rotorcraft lands for fuel.
Replies to Parliamentary questions posed by DA shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier indicate R1,62 million was spent on nine Falcon 900 flights and 27 Oryx flights for the Presidential break on Bazaruto Island. This entailed landing at Vilanculos before the Oryxes flew the Presidential entourage to the resort island.
The answer also indicated Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s end-of-year holiday in the Seychelles cost R1,-2 million.
Since taking office in June last year Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has used 21 Squadron’s VIP aircraft 61 times at a cost of R13 million.
This expense comes when all SAAF units and bases are implementing austerity measures, including the mothballing of at least 12 Gripens at AFB Makhado and the virtual grounding of the entire Agusta A109 fleet.
The austerity measures are not confined only to the operational side of the SAAF. The SAAF Museum, in an effort to contain expenses and make more productive use of its Reserve Force staffers, has cut down on the number of open days a week at Zwartkop, Port Elizabeth and Ysterplaat. This Museum Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor said would see more work done on improving exhibits and allows staff to work on exhibits without undue interference from visitors.