The ANC government has begun the process to acquire a new luxury presidential jet with an estimated price tag of R4 billion, even while our economy shrinks and our jobs crisis skyrockets to 8.9 million adults without work. South Africa simply cannot afford this jet and we have to stop it before it takes off.
This is unadulterated greed, writ large. The ANC political elite have simply dreamed up another way to steal from South Africa’s poor. The arms deal, Nkandla, the nuclear deal, and a new jet for Zuma are all projects designed primarily to open new avenues for theft on a grand scale. We need to see these massive ventures for what they really are: corruption-enablers.
On the arms deal and Nkandla, we South Africans woke up somewhat late to this reality, and SA has suffered enormous damage as a result. But we are wiser now, and forewarned is forearmed. Now we have to do everything in our power to stop the acquisition of this jet – let’s call it Nkandla Air – and all such future schemes before they get off the ground.
On Monday, the National Treasury determined that Zuma should personally repay R7.8M for unnecessary additions to Nkandla. So the recovery rate is a measly 3% of the R246 million rand that the public paid for his home improvements. And that does not include the enormous reputational damage we’ve suffered in the eyes of the world, or the legal bills we footed for Zuma’s dodge and delay tactics.
But as I pointed out yesterday at the unveiling of the DA’s Jobs not Jets billboard in the centre of Johannesburg, Nkandla is a picnic compared to what the government is planning to spend on Zuma’s luxurious new jet. Nkandla Air is the equivalent of sixteen Nkandlas!
And I suspect that, as with the nuclear deal and Nenegate, there is a distinct possibility of Gupta involvement. In August last year, a Gupta-owned jet was leased to transport the Deputy President to Japan for an official visit. So the Guptas are definitely aware of this opportunity for further enrichment that their close relationship with Zuma could facilitate.
But, regardless of who exactly stands to benefit and what their true motives are, the crux of the matter is that South Africa cannot afford this jet.
Our economy is in meltdown. Instead of growing, our economy contracted by 1.2% in the first quarter of 2016. There are 8.9 million unemployed adults in South Africa – 5.9 million of whom are under the age of 35. And things are set to get worse.
This jobs crisis is the challenge to which our generation must rise. We can’t afford a president and a government that cares so little about the lives of poor, black South Africans that they would think it acceptable to buy a R4 billion jet at this time. After I unveiled the DA’s “Jobs not Jets” billboard yesterday, I handed over a memorandum to the ANC leadership at Luthuli House, asking them to cancel their plans to acquire a new jet, in light of our dire economic and social circumstances.
With R4 billion we could pay for over 160 000 one-year internships for young South Africans; or for 600 000 three-month work opportunities for jobless South Africans; or we could support 80 000 new entrepreneurs with a R 50 000 start-up grant each; or we could fund 53 000 full bursaries to cover fees, accommodation, transport and textbooks for young South Africans.
Already, Zuma’s defense of the jet is that it has nothing to do with him. He claims he’s not the one making the decisions. If we don’t act, then Zuma’s Nkandla Air excuses are going to sound just like his Nkandla home improvements excuses: “I didn’t know, and it wasn’t me”. This time we must force him to take personal responsibility from the start – not after we’ve spent millions of rands of our money on his legal fees.
The DA’s memorandum and billboard send a loud and clear message to Zuma’s ANC that South Africans want jobs, not jets. But there is an even better way to send this message. On 3 August, you can send the loudest and clearest message possible and you can stop Nkandla Air from taking to the skies. On 3 August, you can choose jobs over jets by voting for the DA.