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‘It’s irresponsible to disclose how much govt will pay for new jet’

The defence minister has disputed claims that a new presidential jet will cost the state R4 billion.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says it would be irresponsible to disclose how much government is willing to pay for a new presidential jet, because the amount depends on information from suppliers.

Mapisa-Nqakula was speaking ahead of her department's budget vote presentation in Parliament earlier today.

The minister has confirmed the procurement of a new aircraft is going ahead, but has disputed the R4 billion price tag, which is the unofficial estimate of a plane with the specifications the defence force requires.

She has refused to say how much has been budgeted for a new presidential jet.

"What would that be based on? Because there are processes in place, I think I did indicate that there was a request for information. It scans the environment and gives an idea of what is available and where it is available."

She says the existing presidential jet, Inkwazi, has run into trouble in the past.

"For instance, the president is in Burundi - something happens to the aircraft and the president is unable to come [back] to the country on time."

Mapisa-Nqakula says the defence force is responsible for the president's safe travel, and this won't be compromised.

'SA CAN'T AFFORD A NEW JET'

At the same time, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane says South Africa cannot afford to buy a new presidential jet in the current economic climate.

Maimane says the money could be spent on delivering services to the public.

"I understand if we had a plane that was already in the air for decades, but this is not the case. This is a fairly new plane; I believe it's not a necessary procurement for the people of this country. We must move towards a place where every resource is spent for the people of South Africa. There are people who are unemployed and need houses."

Meanwhile, the African Defence review says it's foolish and unnecessary to replace the current presidential jet.

Senior correspondent Darren Olivier says, "It's really foolish in my view. There's really no need to replace Inkwazi. This jet is only 15 years old; it's designed for at least 30 years of State flying and is currently flying far less than equivalent of some aircraft in the commercial airline market."