Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
The auditor-general and the public protector have been asked to look into the astonishing R2.2-billion purchase, now cancelled, of two presidential jets.
Why was the deal, in which a $10-million deposit had been paid, called off on Friday by the Defence Minister of only weeks, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula? Why had conventional tender procedures apparently been bypassed? Why the rush?
We earnestly hope the purchases are properly probed, and that the prudence and taste of the affair is not lost in the scrutiny. Should the president of an emerging nation be flitting about in a 301-seater Boeing 777-200LR costing $150m – and $80m more for presidential upgrades?
Emphatically not. It is almost double the size of Inkwazi, the 10-year-old official jet bought during Thabo Mbeki’s first term. The aircraft intended for the deputy president, a Bombardier Global Express 6000, was to add $28m to the bill.
The cabinet apparently approved new aircraft for its bosses two years ago, underlining the question of the deviation from tender procedures. If they were bypassed, this is cause for dismay – has the government executive forgotten the embarrassment of the arms deal and the foolishness of closed processes? More alarmingly, does it care?
Maintenance, it seems, prompted the cabinet go-ahead – Inkwazi, a Boeing 737, spent some months in a hangar last year, but is said to be in trim now. It is striking that a 10-year-old executive aircraft is said to be in need of replacement when government leaders in the apartheid era sometimes flew without incident in 50-year-old military aircraft.
If reliable aircraft maintenance is a problem in South Africa nowadays, and a replacement aircraft is really essential for the president, then let it be more modest than a Boeing 777. Buying something that large and costly would feed the impression of an uncaring, runaway political elite, and further distance political leaders from struggling citizens.