Thu Dec 08 16:21:50 SAST 2016

Two new long-range presidential jets is one too many

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-11-07 00:03:30.0

The Times Editorial: Reports suggesting that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's safety might have been at risk on several occasions when VIP jets transporting him on government business developed technical problems are certainly sobering.

Motlanthe's safety, and that of President Jacob Zuma, must be guaranteed when they travel.

If this means upgrading the defence force's VIP jets or leasing new aircraft, then so be it.

But the government would do well to think long and hard before it puts pen to paper on the proposed purchase of two luxurious long-range airliners for Zuma and Motlanthe.

For one thing, the price tag is astronomical - according to the Sunday Times, the state will have to fork out R1.6-billion for the two jets.

Does a country of South Africa's size really need two state-of-the art, long-range presidential jets? The Americans do, no doubt, but their GDP dwarfs ours and they are a major player on the international stage, whereas South Africa is merely a regional power that punches a little above its weight while battling to deal with vast socioeconomic challenges at home.

The case for buying one long-range presidential jet is possibly justified - two, probably not. Instead of whipping out the cheque book, the defence department should conduct a thorough examination of its VIP aircraft fleet to establish which planes are still serviceable and which should be mothballed - the deputy president's official Falcon 900 is reportedly more than 30 years old.

The procedures used by the defence force to lease planes from private companies should also be examined - the department is reportedly trying to get out of an R800-million contract with a preferred bidder for the acquisition and maintenance of VIP aircraft.

Considering that the agreement was announced only this year, this smacks of poor decision-making and could result in a sizeable damages claim.

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