By Mandy Wiener

July 9th, 2012

The Defence Ministry confirmed on Saturday that $10-million (about R82-million) that was put down as a deposit for a R2-billion Boeing 777 jet, has been paid back to South Africa.

The payment was made after Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced the process to procure the new R2-billion Boeing 777 luxury jet for the president was cancelled.

Mapisa-Nqakula on Friday appealed to the public to give her a chance to deal with the sensitive issue of transporting state officials.

The problem of transporting VVIPS has long plagued the defence ministry.

Mapisa-nqakula said the ministry is seeking legal advice on the status of the process to lease planes to transport state officials.

The minister was evasive about who had been driving the procurement process, whether other bids were considered and how much plane manufacturer Airbus had quoted.

She was also quizzed why a 300-seater plane was needed for the president.

“There wasn’t a signed contract. Boeing happened to have this plane at the time after a client cancelled their order. This plane was then offered to the South African government.”

Mapisa-Nqakula cancelled the deal, but said the process of acquiring transport for state officials will restart before an investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is finalised.

“Everything should depend on the advice that we are given by the technicians. In this case, it will be the National Defence Force, the Air Force and Chief of the Defence Force.”

South Africa’s fleet of state official planes including the president’s current plane is constantly undergoing maintenance and service because of the many years it is being used.

She said she has not spoken to her predecessor Lindiwe  Sisulu about the matter, but will be meeting with her next week.