South Africa luxury presidential jet plans condemned

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South-African President Jacob Zuma arrives at the Houari-Boumediene international airport in Algiers on March 30, 2015. Zuma arrived in Algeria for a three-day official visit at the invite of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The advert for a new presidential jet is asking for a plane that could reach New York without stopping over

South Africa's opposition has demanded that the government scrap plans to buy a new jet for President Jacob Zuma that could cost 4bn rand ($280m; £185m).

The defence department has advertised for a plane with a bedroom suite and a conference room.

The presidency has responded, asking the department to brief the public "as much as possible" on the purchase.

Secretary for defence Sam Gulube told City Press that they don't know how much the plane would cost.

But the advert for suppliers specifies they are looking for a plane with a range of 13,800km (8,600 miles), meaning it can fly to Moscow or New York without landing to refuel.

The tender notice also says the plane should have 30 passenger seats - double the number of the president's current plane.

The department of defence says the jet would replace the current plane, Ikwazi, which has been grounded a number of times due to mechanical problems.

But opposition parties are pushing for a cheaper, less luxurious option.

Analysis: Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

Reports of the intention to buy a multi-million dollar jet for South Africa's president could not come at a worse time - after huge public protests by students calling for no fees at universities.

It is not the first time a new aircraft for President Zuma has been proposed. The last few occasions those plans never came to fruition.

So it is unlikely that the state will go ahead with the procurement against the current barrage of condemnation.

The timing is just not right.

"A four-billion rand luxury VIP jet fitted with a private bedroom suite‚ a bathroom and conference room for eight and 30-person capacity is not the answer," said the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on defence matter Kobus Marais.

Pikkie Greef from the organisation representing soldiers, the South African Defence Union (Sandu) added that the expense was unnecessary.

"There is no reason why President Zuma cannot travel the way President Mandela used to travel which is with stop-overs and refuelling," he told Eye Witness News.

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