“Remember that this [stage] is only a request for information [RFI]. I don’t know where the R4-billion comes from, because quite frankly we cannot afford it. We are looking at a whole variety of options,” Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford told reporters in Pretoria.
“We are seeking information so that we can establish the costs. Until we establish the costs … we are not going to do anything irresponsible. That I can guarantee you.”
He said affordability would determine the plane which would be acquired to complement the current VVIP jet, Inkwazi.
“We are being prudent on how we exercise our planning process and the evaluation process. We know that money doesn’t grow on trees and part of our role as the executing authority on this matter is to make sure that we are being responsible. We are not going to be irresponsible,” said Wakeford.
“It’s unbelievable to see the trash that’s being meted out in some of the media on this matter – devoid of all truth. The capability [the jet] is an approved requirement since 2012.”
He said a request for information dispatched was nowhere near a purchase.
“The RFI is to test the market in terms of availability and product options. It is not binding. We may say ‘we have to wait a bit longer or we might say let’s move forward with the following [stage] – which is a RFO, the request for offers. It starts to be legalistic at that point,” said Wakeford.
He said huge sums of money flow from African countries where South Africa was actively involved in diplomatic and peacekeeping interventions.
“The return is massive. It will pay for this many times over,” said Wakeford.
SA Air Force deputy chief Zimpande Msimang said chartering planes for senior government officials, including the president, posed several security risks.
“In the case of flights involving representatives of RSA, interacting with other countries, the ability to arrive fresh at the destinations across the multiple time zones is critical. The SAAF has a need to increase their current capability to provide intercontinental air transportation to members of the South African government. The current fleet of the VVIP aircraft cannot sustain the current air transport requirements,” he said.
On Monday, President Jacob Zuma’s office said it had requested information from the department of defence regarding reported plans to buy the new presidential jet.
The presidency said it had also asked the department to brief the media in this regard “as much as possible without compromising security”.
It added: “It should also be noted that the aircrafts purchased by the department of defence for use by the president and deputy president belong to the state.”
The department has ordered Armscor to proceed with the acquisition of a VVIP jet to replace the current one, the Inkwazi, with one that boasts double the capacity.
The opposition has responded with outrage with the Democratic Alliance urging Zuma to intervene and scrap the acquisition process. – ANA