A new shroud of secrecy has been pulled over the saga of the presidency and the air force’s VIP flights and the squandering of state money after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sunday flight details to Angola were hidden from the general public, writes Erika Gibson in this week’s edition of Vrye Weekblad.
The last time a business jet operator went to the same lengths in the South African skies was when the Gupta jet with the registration ZS-OAK was traced.
Until now the flight profile of Ramaphosa’s travels, as well as those of Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki during their presidential terms, was not restricted on open tracing apps such as Flight Radar 24 or Plane Finder. Not even the US presidential Air Force One is restricted.
Ramaphosa’s flight was no secret: the presidency announced he would travel to Angola for former president Eduardo dos Santos’s funeral.
The only explanation for the apparent sensitivity around presidential flights is the uproar over Ramaphosa’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) about three weeks ago. According to the air force, Ramaphosa and 13 other passengers traveled to the DRC in an SAA Airbus A340-300.
The air force contract to use the Jeppesen flight data system lapsed in March and it could not use a VIP jet. Another reason is that a local supplier made modifications to the squadron’s number two plane without clearing it with the original manufacturer, Dassault.