Home South African R500k for catering: Call to probe jet-setters’ food bill on presidential flight

R500k for catering: Call to probe jet-setters’ food bill on presidential flight

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While families are battling to put food on the table, more than R500,000 was allegedly spent on catering for guests aboard President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Inkwazi presidential jet following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

Catering on board the presidential flight allegedly cost more than R500,000. File picture

WHILE families are battling to put food on the table, more than R500,000 was allegedly spent on catering for guests aboard President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Inkwazi presidential jet following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka is now expected to receive a formal request to probe allegations of wasteful expenditure in connection with the catering costs.

A Sunday newspaper reported that the return flight from London to South Africa cost taxpayers R569,000 or at least R23,708 per person for the maximum 18 passengers allowed on the jet.

The 15-seater Boeing 737 aircraft is used to transport the president and is operated by six crew from 21 Squadron of the South African Air Force.

Last year the Presidency was criticised after it emerged that it paid R1.6 million a day to national carrier SAA to fly Ramaphosa to the Democratic Republic of Congo when Inkwazi was out of commission.

DA leader John Steenhuisen, in a statement, said the party would be writing to Gcaleka, “requesting a full investigation into allegations of exorbitant and wasteful expenditure for catering aboard the Inkwazi presidential jet”.

“On the 12-hour flight from London to South Africa alone, following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year, it is alleged that catering came to a whopping R24,000 per head, amounting to just under R600,000 in total for fewer than 18 VIP guests.

“It is clear that while President Ramaphosa and his VIPs rack up exorbitant catering and alcohol bills for travel, at the expense of the South African taxpayer, thousands of ordinary South Africans are left to perish from severe hunger and malnutrition.

“So blatant is the gluttony and greed of presidential VIPs, that even surplus food, drink and entire chocolate cakes are smuggled out of Inkwazi in their luggage,” Steenhuisen said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signing a book of condolence at Lancaster House in London. File picture

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said the Presidency did not have any control over the food and drinks served on board Inkwazi and this was dealt with by the air force’s VIP squadron.

Steenhuisen claimed that baked goods, chocolates and expensive alcohol were taken from the presidential jet “to the homes of connected cadres”.

“It is deplorable that President Ramaphosa and the ANC can continue to show such blatant disregard for the suffering of the South African people, whose inability to meet their most basic needs is a violation of the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

“The DA will be calling for an immediate investigation into these allegations of travel gluttony so that public money can be spent feeding the hungry and not fat-cat ANC politicians,” he said.

The DA’s national spokesperson, Solly Malatsi, said the correspondence to Gcaleka was to be finalised on Monday.

IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said the details on the “exorbitant costs” emerged at a time when the country is facing a financial crisis.

“It was a trip meant to pay condolences to the family of the queen, but this is not a compelling enough reason to incur such expenses.

“We are human beings and this dealt with death and paying tribute, but we have to think about how we are spending taxpayer money, especially when the country is in crisis.”

Hlabisa said cautious spending should always be applied.

“It is lavish spending like this that makes us wonder why there is not enough money in the budget to strengthen communities and better people’s lives.”

The presidential jet can transport delegations from Waterkloof, in Pretoria, with its altitude and temperature conditions, on a non-stop flight to destinations more than 10,000km away.

The aircraft’s interior has been designed and equipped to provide for a functional VIP environment and the plane has enough space for the number of crew required by international air traffic regulations. Limited emergency medical procedures can be performed on board.

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said the latest allegations of splurging by the government while ordinary citizens struggled was another example of the emotional disconnect that exists.

“This trip was to attend a funeral and it shows the disconnect with ordinary people’s feelings. Normal South Africans are starting to see that the measures of reassurance are simply smoke and mirrors.”

Seepe said South Africans were told to be grateful for the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant but “there is little to no understanding of the struggle of people in the face of such lavish spending of taxpayer money”.

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