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Warnings continue to flood in over Zuma’s R4bn jet

Armscor has initiated an acquisition process by requesting information about possible jets for the president.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Warnings continue to sound over the decision to buy Jacob Zuma a new presidential jet with claims that the money could be better spent supporting the national defence force.

Weekend reports revealed that Armscor has initiated an acquisition process by requesting information about possible jets for the president.

It's estimated that a new aircraft could cost as much as R4 billion.

African Defence Review's Darren Olivier says the defence budget could fund the purchase of a new aircraft but this would mean more pressing requirements take a back seat.

Oliver says there's no reason why the current jet can't continue to operate.

"It's reliable and still has many years of life and I don't see why it makes any sense to acquire an aircraft that can fly non-stop."

Meanwhile, the Presidency has asked Armscor for information on the proposed acquisition, suggesting President Zuma was unaware of plans to buy a new jet.

TRANSPARENCY

Earlier today, Zuma's office reacted to reports that the South African National Defence Force intending to buy him a new jet, saying the public must be briefed on this matter as much as possible.

Armco has set a deadline for 20 November for information on possible suppliers before the acquisition's board meets in December.

Zuma's office said in a statement that the presidency asked the Defence Ministry to provide it with information pertaining to media reports about a new presidential jet.

His office urged transparency on this issue, saying it's also asked the department to brief the public as much as possible on the acquisition process, but without compromising security.

The president however stated that aircraft purchased for the use of the president and his deputy remain the property of the State.

Defence union Sandu criticised the proposed purchase, saying money would be better spent on salaries and equipment for troops.

At the same time, the Democratic Alliance's shadow defence minister Kobus Morais said Treasury is already struggling to balance its balance sheet.

"We know that there's R2,6 billion that will go towards higher education as a result of the Fees Must Fall Campaign. That's absolutely unacceptable that in this time when people are losing their jobs, unemployment is increasing, that they're even considering that."

The City Press newspaper reported that specifications for the aircraft include a private bedroom suite, a bathroom and a conference room for eight people on board.

The president's current jet, Inkwazi, is unable to carry more than 15 people and with the new purchase at least 30 passengers will be able to travel with the president.

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