Jet Deal Raises Hackles In South Africa

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An opposition member of the South African parliament is calling on the government to cancel the proposed purchase of two more long-range business jets, calling it an "outrageous extravagance" considering the plight of many people in the country. David Maynier, who is the "shadow" minister of defense is also asking for an investigation into the purchase and the general state of affairs in the South African Air Force's VIP Transport Squadron. Although it's common for governments to maintain a fleet of aircraft for use by government officials, Maynier is tweaked that both President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will have virtually exclusive use of each of the aircraft. Negotiations are already under way with Airbus and Boeing to see who gets the contract. South Africa already has a Boeing Business Jet for VIP flights. "The fact is that it is simply wrong to spend (1.6 billion South African Rand) on business jets when millions of people in our country do not have housing, health or access to basic services," Maynier said. "And these are no ordinary airplanes."

The specs for the aircraft call for a private bedroom, preferably with a shower-equipped bathroom and a dressing room. A sound-proof workstation and a private conference area for six people are also among the requirements. The government says it needs the jets in case the existing BBJ breaks down. The administration now rents aircraft if the BBJ is down or already busy but Maynier says it shouldn't even be doing that. He claims the leaders are ignoring government guidelines that say they should be traveling commercial unless time constraints or other compelling reasons dictate otherwise.