Ramaphosa: SANDF couldn't find any other plane

Ramaphosa said they couldn't find an appropriate plane among its fleet, so an aircraft had to be chartered.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at Tokyo International Airport in Tokyo, Japan in a jet owned by the Gupta family. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says he didn't know a Gupta family company owned the plane that flew him and a government delegation to Japan on an official State visit.

The private jet is registered to Westdawn Investments which is owned by the Gupta family.

President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane is also a director at the company.

Ramaphosa on Wednesday explained that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) couldn't find an appropriate plane among its fleet, so an aircraft had to be chartered.

"In this case it so happened that because of the commitments that we had and the number of other engagements, the best way to travel was to have a plane chartered. That is the reality, believe it or not."

Eyewitness News revealed that the jet, which ferried the government delegation on the official visit, was hired by the Department of Defence (DoD).

Ramaphosa was questioned about the charter during his appearance in the National Council of Provinces yesterday afternoon.

"The information about the ownership of the plane only comes out much later. Now let's say that what we always seek to do is to find the most cost effective way to take us to whatever destination and that we will continue to do."

ASSESSMENT OF SECURITY

On Saturday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she asked the air force to assess whether the current processes followed to charter private jets for VIPs compromised security and integrity.

Mapisa-Nqakula held a briefing at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Friday to explain why a government delegation made use of a leased jet instead of using the air force's own aircrafts.

EWN revealed that the Gupta owned Bombadier was chartered at an estimated cost of R5 million for the official visit.

The minister said the company providing the plane and the pilots, ExecuJet, were security vetted but the owners of the plane were not.

She said ExecuJet exercised a right of non-disclosure of the ownership of the aircraft.

"ExecuJet is not obliged to come to us and say this particular aircraft which we are securing for you belongs to 'A'; what is important is that the jet belongs to a company within the Republic of South Africa."

The minister insisted government and in particular Ramaphosa did not know the Gupta family owned the private jet.

Mapisa-Nqakula insisted all procedures were followed for the procurement of the plane.

"We have absolutely no control over who owns an aircraft which is charted by ExecuJet on the basis of the specifications request specifications submitted to National Treasury."