South African President Zuma’s 747 Boeing Airplane-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
South African President Jacob Zuma plans to purchase a luxury Boeing 747 at a cost of 4 billion rand, or about $280 million, to South African taxpayers
Reports about President Zuma’s Boeing 747 are a combination of truth and fiction.
These rumors started after Zuma’s presidential plane, a Boeing Inkwazi, was grounded in Moscow due to mechanical problems in 2015. Soon after Zuma requested an upgraded presidential plane — and there was plenty of backlash.
South Africa’s City Press described the request in a report that stirred outcy:
A private bedroom suite, a bathroom and a conference room for eight people on board. These are just some of the specifications for a brand-new presidential jet that Armscor, the defence force’s acquisitions agency, is planning to buy for President Jacob Zuma, which could cost as much as R4 billion.
Armscor officially announced the acquisition process on its website on Thursday with a request for information from people who may be able to supply the jet. The deadline is as early as November 20, which means information must be submitted by the time the Armscor acquisitions board meets next month.
Secretary for defence Sam Gulube confirmed that the department had asked Armscor to procure a VIP jet for Zuma. He said specific requirements were submitted to his office by the SA air force.
“We don’t know how much it’s going to cost. Any talk about cost of such a capability is unfounded, groundless and baseless. Armscor has requested information and will only know [about the cost] once that information is received.”
BBC reported in November that opposition parties in South Africa had condemned Zuma’s request. They pushed for a “cheaper, less luxurious option” to shuttle Zuma around the globe:
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 (a Democratic Alliance spokesperson).
That wasn’t the end of the story, however. Zuma was stranded by mechanical problems yet again in February 2016. This time he was grounded in the war-torn country of Burundi, South African media report :
The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said it chartered a plane to Bujumbura from Waterkloof Air Force Base in the early hours of yesterday morning to fetch the president who returned home on Saturday, but only after deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to step in for Zuma on several local engagements.
SANDF officials said the presidential plane was jeopardizing Zuma’s security and reissued calls for a new, upgraded presidential jet. Posts and forwarded emails about Zuma’s latest request went viral — and that’s where this rumor jumps the rails from “truth” to “fiction.”
These posts and emails seem to stretch the truth in some areas for dramatic effect. A Boeing 747 normally holds about 400 passengers — not 600, as these posts and emails claim. Also, photos claim to show the interior of the Boeing 747 requested by Zuma — but the photos actually show the interior of a Boeing 747-8 private jumbo jet, which costs nearly $800 million. That’s far more than the $280 million price tag on the jet requested by Zuma
And it should be noted that Zuma had apparently ditched his request for a new presidential play by July 2016. Business Tech reported that Zuma had opted for a rental plane at cost of 2 million rand per month (about $140,000).