Just days after his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party discussed ways to alleviate the growing gap between rich and poor people in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma is on the verge of purchasing a $230-billion presidential jet.
The Boeing-777 aircraft, which seats about 300 people, will cost $150 million to purchase and another $80 million to customize.
Zuma’s current presidential jet has been out of service for upgrades and maintenance.
South Africa’s Department of Defence, which supervises the transport of senior government officials, may also purchase a second private plane -- a Global Express 600 -- for deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe at a cost of $28 million.
Secretary of Defence Sam Makhudu Gulube is reportedly in the U.S. finalizing the transactions with Boeing.
Opposition politicians are outraged over the proposed lavish expenditures in a country where at least one-fourth of the population is unemployed and 40 percent live on less than $49 per month.
David Maynier, the defense and military veterans spokesman for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, condemned Zuma for not using the state airline.
If British Prime Minister David Cameron can use British Airways to fly, then Zuma can fly South African Airways, he said.
It is simply wrong to spend R2 billion on a presidential jet when so many people in the country are poor. I believe a presidential jet should only be used in exceptional circumstances. I hope delegates at the ANC’s national policy conference ask President Zuma to explain how a R2 billion presidential business jet will help our country tackle the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
The Johannesburg Star newspaper reported that the deal has not followed proper procedures which require that such procurements be subject to competitive tender.
Maynier has asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to probe whether state spending on the new aircraft for Zuma and Motlanthe is warranted. The DA also said it will ask the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, to investigate the purchase of the plane.