R100 million has been allocated in the current financial year to lease a jet configured to VIP needs for President Jacob Zuma, the minister of defence has revealed in reply to a written parliamentary question.
“The budget that is allocated for the leasing of the VIP-configured jet for the 2016/17 financial year is R100m,” Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in the reply published on Monday.
The bid was put out to tender on August 18, the minister added, and a jet is expected to be delivered to the South African Air Force (SAAF) in November.
“After the tender process has been completed, and if a successful bid is received, it is anticipated that the aircraft will be delivered to the SA Air Force on November 1, 2016.”
The Democratic Alliance said this sum translated into spending more than a quarter of a million rand on presidential travel every day of the year.
“This equates to R273 972 per day for the lease of a presidential jet for Zuma, more than double the price of a first-class round trip to London,” DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais said.
“There can be absolutely no justification for such extravagance while the South African economy is under extraordinary fiscal pressure and facing a potential ratings downgrade,” he added.
He said spending on presidential travel had become a “fiscal black hole” during Zuma’s time in office.
“If President Zuma is serious about stabilising our economic outlook then he must personally set an example of restraint, and order the minister not to proceed with plans to lease the aircraft.”
The defence ministry declined to answer questions from the DA on how much the president’s air travel has cost in the past two years, as it has done for the past few years, saying for security reasons any information related to VIP travel could only be disclosed to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence.
“The information required relates to the movement of the VIP, and for security reasons, the response to this question can only be presented to a closed session of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
– African News Agency (ANA)