Armscor does a U-turn in rush to lease VIP jet

WEEKS after denying that a formal request had been made for a new presidential jet, Armscor, the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) acquisition arm, has announced a tender for the lease of an intercontinental VIP aircraft.

The aircraft must be able to transport 15 VIPs in comfort for about 10,000km nonstop. This distance will cover a trip to Moscow or Hong Kong.

The tender was put out on Friday and closes next Wednesday.

It comes weeks after an airforce VIP aircraft transporting Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa from Mpumalanga to Gauteng had to perform an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.

Last month, he was unable to attend a government event in the Eastern Cape because the aircraft developed technical difficulties shortly before takeoff.

Armscor spokeswoman Lulu Mzili said the lease, although an interim solution, was a matter of urgency. But the Democratic Alliance (DA) has reacted with outrage.

DA MP Kobus Marais said regardless of whether a new aircraft was procured or leased, fundamental problems around poor aircraft maintenance were not being attended to.

"It’s mind-boggling government is even considering buying or leasing new aircraft, especially as it will be at the expense of our pilots, troop safety and the protection of SA," he added.

Ms Mzili said: "Last year, we issued a request for information to see what was available and the costs. We received that information, analysed it and referred it to the Defence Department."

Commenting on the fact that Armscor said 10 days ago that there was no requirement from the department for a VIP aircraft, Ms Mzili said the request had since come from the department.

She declined to comment on the budget as this would influence the proposals from bidders.

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