Only United States of America president Barack Obama has a better plane than what President Jacob Zuma currently has, an academic said on Monday.
City Press reports that Armscor, the defence ministry’s procurement agency, is planning to buy Zuma a new plane that could cost as much as R4bn.
“There are world leaders who have presidential jets, but that’s exactly what they are, business jets. They are much smaller than what he [Zuma] has at this stage,” University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood told News24.
“Only president Obama has a better aircraft.”
He said British Prime Minister David Cameron used a chartered British Airways aircraft to fly around, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chartered one from Air India.
“It is expensive, but it’s a once off expense.”
What also needed to be taken into account is how often Zuma would be flying long distances abroad with the new plane, and whether it would be used domestically.
According to Rapport, the published request on the Armscor website’s tender noticeboard says the aircraft must be able to carry at least 30 passengers and have a range of 13 800km. This would mean the aircraft must be able to fly to Moscow or New York without landing to refuel.
Conference room, bedroom, bathroom
According to the request, the aircraft must also have a conference room for eight people on board as well as a private bedroom suite and bathroom.
Henwood said buying the aircraft was one thing, but the maintenance to “keep it flying” would be massively expensive.
“What is the long term financial commitment? It could impact the current defence budget… which is already in dire straits.”
Henwood said this was not the type of message to send to the whole of South Africa.
“They [government] say, ‘there is no money for this or no money for that’, and say that South Africans have to ‘tighten their belts’, when this is a massive amount to spend on one person,” he said.
“It sends the wrong message in this difficult time in South Africa. It is over the top compared to other countries.”
Henwood said some could argue that Zuma was taking a more global role and needed to appear as a world leader.
“What about him being the president of South Africa?” he asked.
He said it was unlikely that the new plane would be used for chartering by other people.
“No one can afford it, and those who can have their own planes in any case.”
There have been several controversies with potential planes being bought for Zuma over the last few years. However, none of those plans had come to fruition.
“This is probably the third time this has come up, and there was a huge outcry the previous times, and it [the procurement of a plane] was postponed,” Henwood said.
According to Rapport, the deadline for Armscor’s aquisition process is as early as November 20.
“I am not sure what the logic in getting it very quickly. I am not sure what is going on. In what world do these people live?”