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 million presidential jet.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, seating about 300 people, will cost $150 million to purchase and another $80 million to customize, according to the Telegraph of London.
Zuma’s current presidential jet has been out of service for upgrades and maintenance.
South Africa’s Defense Department, 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.
Defense Secretary Sam Makhudu Gulube is reportedly in the U.S. finalizing the transactions with Boeing, the Pan African News Agency reported.
Opposition politicians are outraged over the proposed lavish expenditures in a country where at least one-quarter of the population is unemployed and 40 percent live on less than $49 per month.
David Maynier, the defense and military veterans representative of the opposition Democratic Alliance, or 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," Maynier was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper of Johannesburg. "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 Star reported the government has not followed proper procedures -- requiring that such procurements be subject to competitive bidding -- in arranging the deal.
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 purchases.
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