President Jacob Zuma. File photo: Siphiwe Sibeko

Parliament – The acquisition of new aircraft to transport South Africa’s VVIPs, including president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, will go ahead, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday.

Briefing journalists ahead of tabling her department’s budget in Parliament, Mapisa-Nqakula hit out at those suggesting the price tag for the aircraft would be R4 billion.

“I think now what is causing the problem is that somebody just woke up one day and said the defence force is going to spend R4 billion at a time when the economy is not doing well and obviously every South African is up in arms.”

“We would never ever sit here and say we will spend R4 billion on an aircraft.”

The minister stressed that the acquisition of aircraft for the president and deputy president was urgent as both the presidential jet, Inkwazi, and the plane transporting Ramaphosa had run into technical problems several times, endangering their safety.

“We have a responsibility to do it. It has to be done,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

“We would probably spend far less than we are spending on chartering. Whenever there is a problem we have to charter an aircraft for the president and deputy president.”

She said her department issued a request for information relating to the acquisition of VVIP aircraft last year, but since then there had been “very little movement.

“We are now preparing to lease an aircraft and we are going to lease aircraft while we are in the process of procuring one for the VVIPs,” the minister said.

Mapisa-Nqakula refused to say how much the department was willing to spend on the aircraft.

“To say to you for instance we will spend R2 billion would be incorrect. I would be misleading you. I can’t come [thumb]suck a figure. It will be based on information from those…who are selling the equipment.”

African News Agency