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‘Sabotage Fear': SA President Zuma Abandon Jet After Fuel Leaks

President Jacob Zuma and his security staff last week refused point-blank to fly in his jet, Inkwazi, because of alleged fears of 'sabo...

President Jacob Zuma and his security staff last week refused point-blank to fly in his jet, Inkwazi, because of alleged fears of 'sabotage' of the aircraft, according to military sources.

A rented aircraft was obtained in a hurry on Monday to take Zuma to Durban. The clash came after Zuma arrived in Doha, the capital of Qatar, only a week earlier with fuel pouring from one wing. A broken fuel line caused the problem.

A rented aircraft had to bring him back on that occasion, while technicians repaired the plane there.
President Jacob Zuma 

Zuma had to go to Durban on Monday evening to calm the waters after the ANC provincial structure forced KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu to resign.

Earlier that morning, Inkwazi had returned from Doha fully repaired and was ready to take Zuma to Durban, but the president refused. He and his staff even refused to allow him to fly with any of 21 Squadron’s current fleet, until he received 100% assurance that everything was in order with it.

Air force generals and staff of Zuma were in talks behind closed doors at the Waterkloof air base for some time while a backup aircraft was rented.

The incident came just days after air force representatives walked out of a meeting with arms procurement agency Armscor about the acquisition of an additional jet. The meeting was to discuss the arrangements regarding the hiring of a temporary jet (to alleviate the presidency’s immediate needs).

The air force wants a brand-new aircraft that can fly nonstop to New York and has seating for 30 passengers, but the budget for the aircraft cannot afford this. An alternative Boeing Business Jet, similar to Inkwazi, seems to be Armscor’s short-term proposal.

The aircraft is even older than Inkwazi, with about double the latter’s flying hours on the clock. This plane is understood from Armscor sources to be the best of the aircraft available in terms of a government tender.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also said in Parliament last week that a new jet would be bought for the president – despite the tight defence budget that, at present, cannot afford the first milestone in the reorganisation of the defence force to halt the decline.

In response to an enquiry by City Press’ stablemate, Rapport, about the standard of technical skills in the air force and Zuma’s refusal, the presidency referred the question to the department of defence. The department of state security did the same.

Defence force spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said: “High-level talks with Armscor to find a permanent solution for the chronic technical problems at the squadron are currently taking place.”

Some air force generals this week undertook test flights with Inkwazi to determine first-hand whether everything was in order with the jet. “As far as the acquisition of an additional aircraft is concerned, there is now consensus that a permanent solution [for all problems] must be found without delay,” said Dlamini.

Rapport has learnt from high-ranking sources that options are being considered to outsource the servicing of the jet to a large extent, as well as to employ expert technicians again. “All the government departments are working closely together to ensure the president’s safe air transport,” said Dlamini. - City Press

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