When President Cyril Ramaphosa landed in Botswana this last weekend for his first official visit, he flew there in a private jet owned by the Moti Company because the presidential jet is once again in for repairs.
In a picture posted on his official Twitter account, Ramaphosa showed himself arriving in Gaborone, with a Bombardier aircraft in the background. The plane had the Moti insignia on its side.
Moti is a mining and property company owned by Zunaid Moti, a businessman who is no stranger to controversy. It has been in the news recently when British peer Peter Hain announced that he had been appointed as a special advisor for the Moti Group of companies.
The Moti company is allegedly close to Zimbabwe's new president. News24 recently reported that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had allegedly helped facilitate a chrome deal with Moti's company, Africa Chrome Fields.
Moti told News24 that their company has a number of planes which are hired out by Execujet and the National Airways Corporation (NAC) for commercial use.
Moti said Execujet and the NAC, in turn, hire out the planes to the South African Air Force, which uses them to fly businessmen and ministers, as well as the heads of state of a number of countries.
It is not the first time that the South African president has been flown in planes owned by well-known businessmen because of problems with the presidential jet, known as Inkwazi.
Arrived to a very warm reception in Gaborone, Botswana for a working visit with President Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama pic.twitter.com/vCpwtMUG7a-- President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) March 3, 2018
Shortage of planes
In 2015, at least R10m was spent on two chartered aircraft to bring Zuma back from Russia. It later emerged in 2016 that a private jet was costing taxpayers at least R2m to fly the president.
Also in 2015, Ramaphosa, then the deputy president of the country, flew to Japan on a chartered plane owned by the Gupta family.
At the beginning of 2016, then-president Jacob Zuma was said to have been stranded in Burundi because of problems with Inkwazi. It had also allegedly broken down in Qatar.
At the time, the Department of Defence said the problems with the jet were unacceptable and that they would put pressure on Armscor to procure a new jet, which allegedly would have cost up to R4bn. A public outcry followed and a new plane was never bought.
The Mail & Guardian reported that the South African Air Force had a shortage of planes in their fleet, as well as a shortage of pilots for VVIP flights. The report said that the amenities needed on board such flights meant that the number of privately-owned planes in South Africa that the president could use was limited.
In order to bring down the costs of hiring planes, a centralised contract was put in place to hire planes for the president, the paper reported. But after Ramaphosa's flight to Japan in the Gupta jet, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula admitted that there may be security issues with this way of hiring planes, as the government did not necessarily know who owned the plane used by a head of state.
Inkwazi undergoing checks
Department of Defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini told News24 that the reason the president was on a private plane was because Inkwazi was undergoing a "C check with SAA Technical". This meant the plane would not be available for about six months "due to the nature of this procedure".
The department said it made use of chartered aircraft when:
- the available serviceable aircraft is/are certified to be inadequate to safely ferry a specific number of passengers and or goods;- The serviceability status is assessed to have a potential to compromise the safety of both passengers and or crew.
Dlamini said it was standard aircraft charter procedure for the Department of Defence to forward a request for an aircraft charter through the National Treasury under an approved contract process.
He said the aircraft hired must be able to fulfil the leg of the trip without stopping, and must fulfil the number of the passengers, safety and all technical specification required. He said the aircraft was under the command and control of the military.
He did not state how much it cost the government to hire the plane.