With President Jacob Zuma back from his latest foreign policy endeavour in strife-torn Burundi, questions are again being asked about the Presidential BBJ, Inkwazi.
In the wake of the latest technical problem with the Presidential Boeing 737 opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said this should not be seen as any added inducement to acquire another VIP aircraft.
“The President was stranded in Burundi due to mechanical problems with Inkwazi. This is likely due to poor maintenance and not because the plan is old and needs to be replaced. The procurement of a new jet should not be the priority of government for the President to carry out his official duties, especially not in the context of a strained economic environment.
“While appreciating the inconvenience of a faulty aircraft the reality is that, given the current economic turmoil, coupled with South Africa’s unemployment crisis, the country simply cannot afford to spend R4 billion on a luxury jet,” Marais said.
Centurion-headquartered trade union Solidarity is currently overseeing the retrenchment of the final 61 former Aero Manpower Group (AMG) technicians, some of whom might have been part of the teams assigned to maintenance at the SA Air Force’s (SAAF’s) VIP squadron.
“We are not going into any detail about where they work or worked during their time at the SAAF,” Solidarity’s Jack Loggenberg said. “Our job is to ensure their retrenchment is as painless as possible and every effort is being made to find work for them”.
The 61 are the survivors – work-wise - of a 528 strong group of aircraft maintenance specialists employed by Denel Aviation in its AMG subsidiary. They were contracted to work only on SAAF aircraft but an oversight in terms of the Public Finance Management Act saw the majority declared surplus to air force needs some three years ago. The remaining technicians were kept on as part of a Strategic Skills Agreement (SSA) to mentor new SAAF technical recruits and continue with regular, scheduled maintenance work.
“It appears the air force now has no more need for mentoring or skills transfer and the majority of the remaining 61 former AMG personnel will leave at the end of March with the balance exiting at the end of April,” he said.
All have already received letters of termination and according to Loggenberg, are no longer allowed to work on SAAF aircraft.
“Worrying to me is that legally they cannot do their jobs and this could lead to problems down the line.”
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