After news broke on Sunday that it cost President Cyril Ramaphosa about R1.5 million for a single return flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg, some on social media have complained that the new president is being treated differently to his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Some have even gone as far as to allege that the media has not been giving the matter any attention, despite there being a plethora of media reports about the story, and a mainstream newspaper broke the news in the first place.
@Nkanyiso_ngqulu The only thing you didn’t do when people normally make the claim “no media attention” is attach an article from the media. So here’s just one of 23 I found. The most detailed one.https://t.co/e4TwhgP0SX
— Graham Robert Evans (@cliviagraham) July 9, 2018
They allege that if the same story had emerged during Zuma’s term there would have been a major outcry about it. However, public reaction to the story has supposedly been muted, despite the fact that the SA Air Force appears to be continuing with plans to procure expensive jets for the country’s executive leaders.
— David (@DavidCape14) July 9, 2018
According to a report in Sunday’s Rapport, it was alleged that on June 21 when the president jetted from Cape Town to Johannesburg and back, it cost the South African taxpayer a small fortune.
— Luigi Pocoto Eltrotiao ???????? (@luigipocoto) July 10, 2018
SAA jets are leased by the military when no commercial flight is available for the president.
Rapport claimed to have seen invoices from SAA highlighting that the airline had invoiced the air force R50 million in a four-month period.
Experts claim leasing a private jet for between 20 and 30 people (the size of the president’s entourage) on a return flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg would only have cost a quarter of that amount.
The estimated costs on a recent Canada trip where Ramaphosa attended a G7 summit cost between R7 million to R10 million and officers handling the payments to SAA complained about the arrangement.
They claim the arrangements were not made according to prescribed regulations. No comparative quotation, which was a requirement from Treasury, was available.
He shouldn't have charted the plane in the first place. If he was desperate to do so, a private jet costs R350 000 to lease for the same trip. That's about 4x less than what Ramaphosa paid.
— Neo ???????? (@realNeoM) July 9, 2018
According to the report, SAA merely provided a letter with the prices for specific flights and did not provide an itemised account that set out how the final price was calculated.
Ramaphosa stated in March he would always fly SAA or on an air force plane after his first official trip to Botswana, when it was discovered that the aircraft he “unknowingly” used for travel belonged to Zunaid Moti, a controversial businessman wanted by Interpol.
The presidency replied by saying they had only selected the most reasonable air travel option as a matter of principle.
The air force, which is already forking out on steep costs for travel for the president and other top officials, including the deputy president, plans to pay for all VIP flights until a new tender for executive jets is finalised.
Ramaphosa was spotted flying from Johannesburg to Durban in March, using FlySafair. This was, according to his spokesman, an effort to use the mode of transport that was most practical, most convenient, and most cost-effective in his duties. Others dismissed it as a publicity stunt, which Jacob Zuma soon emulated.
The former president commonly known to make the news for his travelling expenses.
In 2011, taxpayers were alerted to a blunder by department of defence seniors who had leased planes for Zuma and his then deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, which allegedly cost taxpayers more than R200 million.
The department had failed to sign a five-year lease agreement worth nearly R827 million with Adonai Aviation, despite giving the company an acceptance letter.
The High Court in Pretoria ruled that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula needed to pay the company more than R200 million in damages.
Is it realistic to expect the President of the Republic of South Africa to rely completely on SAA flight schedules, delays and unexpected cancellations in fulfilling the enormous duties of his Office? Our country is vast. He would be criticized either way. #Ramaphosa #ANC https://t.co/1Qx2BP8zT4
— Simon Grindrod (@SimonPGrindrod) July 9, 2018