Zuma uses charter for Castro memorial service in Cuba while Inkwazi jets around South Africa

4217

The Commander-in-Chief’s apparent aversion to using the Presidential BBJ Inkwazi continues with a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP pointing out Inkwazi was tracked flying to East London and Langebaanweg while Jacob Zuma made use of a chartered aircraft to attend a memorial service in Cuba this week.

“Shocking!” was the word shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais used when notified that ZS-RSA (Boeing 737-ED), was fully serviceable and jetting around South African skies.

Zuma’s apparent aversion to making use of the BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) has seen aircraft including Fortune Air’s Boeing Super 27, a Bombardier Global Express and a Gulfstream in the Oppenheimer stable as well as another Gulfstream, this one on the Angolan register, chartered for the country’s first citizen.

There is currently no word from the SA Air Force on the progress or otherwise of a board of enquiry appointed by Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, earlier this year to investigate the status of aircraft assigned to 21 Squadron and other issues including maintenance. This includes Inkwazi as well as a Falcon 900, two Falcon 50s and a pair of Cessna Citations.

The enquiry is headed by retired SAAF Major General Cedric Masters and the official line is it “is currently underway and as such the SAAF will not make any pronouncements on the matter”. That was the response of Colonel Ethel Kgadimonyane, Acting Director, SAAF Corporate Staff Services, to a defenceWeb enquiry.

It appears to be at odds with what Marais was told by Msimang during an oversight visit by members of Parliament’s Joint Standing committee on Defence (JSCD) in September. The Chief of the Air Force told Marais he was proud of the reliability of Inkwazi as well as the other aircraft in the SAAF VIP Transport squadron.

The question military aviation watchers are asking is why is it necessary to have a board of enquiry if the air force chief tells MPs all is well.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is adamant another VVIP aircraft will be acquired for the SAAF. This is notwithstanding the failure of two Requests for Information (RfIs) to put another aircraft into a 21 Squadron hangar at AFB Waterkloof, whether bought ort leased since Armscor issued an RfI stating an intention to acquire “an inter-continental air transport system for VVIPs” in November last year. According to Armscor chief Executive Kevin Wakeford, Mapisa-Nqakula wanted the new aircraft on the apron at AFB Waterkloof by no later than March 31, 2016.

The non-use of Inkwazi by the person it is primarily there for means extra costs in the region of R2 million a month on aircraft charter, according to military analyst Darren Olivier.