Air Force Can't Cope with Zuma's Travelling
Mosiuoa Lekota, the minister of defence, has ordered a probe into why South African Air Force jets are said to have been unavailable on several occasions to fly Deputy President Jacob Zuma on official business.
Vuyo Zambodla, the defence department's communication head, on Saturday confirmed this was one of several issues being investigated by the air force and that Lekota was awaiting a report-back.
An answer to a parliamentary question this week revealed that despite the existence of the presidential jet and three air force VIP jets, the deputy president and his party flew on chartered private planes on more than 20 occasions between May 2004 and January this year. These flights cost more than R2-million.
Of these 21 flights, 11 were chartered because of a "shortage of cabin crew" on other available flights. According to Zuma's spokesperson, Zanele Mngadi, the air force decides whether to charter a plane for the deputy president or whether to use its own jets.
Seventeen of the chartered flights were local - many between Air Force Base Ysterplaat and Air Force Base Waterkloof.
One flight between Johannesburg International Airport and Cape Town International Airport cost R93 176,81. This flight was undertaken because no SAAF aircraft were available, apparently due to other commitments.
Other chartered flights included a trip in August last year to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for Zuma and his party to attend the 22nd Great Lakes heads of state summit in Burundi. That trip cost R389 790,96.
Another flight, costing R251 196, was chartered from Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam last May when the deputy president attended the Southern African Development Community's extraordinary summit on agriculture and food security.
Mngadi said aside from security considerations, Zuma had a tight schedule and many responsibilities. This meant he often could not just hop on to a domestic flight. His meetings sometimes overran their scheduled time and he would not want to abandon his work because he had a plane to catch.
Commercial flights were not always available at the right time to other countries *1 and Zuma was often accompanied by others, which meant that to fly commercially might not necessarily be the cheapest option. But the Democratic Alliance thinks that is exactly what the deputy president should do.
DA MP Gareth Morgan, who posed the question in parliament about the flights, said chartering planes to fly Zuma was a waste of money and he should make use of commercial flights.
"The DA condemns this exorbitant and wasteful expenditure on chartered flights, and reiterates its call for the deputy president to make use of commercial flights between destinations serviced by our national carriers," Morgan said.
In November last year Morgan and his party criticised Zuma for clocking up more than R11,5-million worth of flights on the three air force jets: a Citation 550, a Falcon 50 and a Falcon 900.
With acknowledgements to Chiara Carter and the Sunday Independent.
*1 Apparently there are often things other than human passengers on the regional flights.
This is apart from the fowls, geese and goats on the roofracks.