The Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party in South Africa has poured scorn on plans for a new private jet for president Jacob Zuma.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the plane, which he described as “Nkandla Air”, would cost R4bn, “an insult to every one of those 8.9m unemployed South Africans”.
Maimane was also disparaging of suggestions the plane could be leased at a cost of R150m a year and said the current presidential plane, a Boeing Business Jet named Inkwazi, could be refurbished.
In a speech Maimane said: “Don’t be fooled when they say: ‘We’re going to start by leasing a new jet for R150m rand a year.’ Leasing versus buying is not the point.
“When the family Toyota starts giving problems and one parent is unemployed, you don’t say: ‘Time to buy a new Range Rover’, or: ‘Time to rent a new Range Rover’.
“You say: ‘Time to fix the family Toyota’, or maybe even: ‘Time to start using public transport’.”
Statistics South Africa data shows that unemployment has risen to 26.7% in the first quarter of this year, up from 24.5% in the fourth quarter of 2015, the highest spike in eight years.
The DA leader said: “Jacob Zuma and his ANC [African National Congress]: They need to stop wasting money on frivolous, luxury items when there are 8.9m unemployed people in SA.
“Every cent of our national budget should be directed towards improving the lives of poor, black South Africans.
“So this is our message to Zuma’s ANC. We want jobs, no jets.”
The plea came prior to the DA leader marching to ANC headquarters at Luthuli House, Johannesburg, to hand over a memorandum calling for investment in the economy rather than personal purchases.
It is not the first time that the president has been involved in controversy regarding government spending.
On Monday a National Treasury report determined that Zuma had to pay back R7.8m spent on non-security upgrades to his Nkandla home.
These included R2.3m for a so-called firepool, R1m amphitheatre and R1.2m for a cattle kraal.
Maimane said: “Now, it is good that Zuma is being made to pay back some of the money.
“But R7.8m is not much when you consider the huge price that we South Africans have paid for Nkandla.
“In fact it is only 3% of the R246m that we paid for his home improvements – R246m that could and should have been spent on improving the lives of poor, black South Africans.
“When they make speeches about belt-tightening measures, they don’t mean their own belts.”
The South African National Defence Force has been quoted in press reports saying the current presidential plane is compromising the safety of the president, describing it as “embarrassing”.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.