At no point has President Jacob Zuma’s family used a SA Air Force helicopter for transport, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said on Sunday.
“The SANDF rejects these spurious allegations and places on record that at no point has the SA Air Force helicopter been used to transport family members,” spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said in a statement.
“Furthermore at no point was such ever raised by any of the crew members of the Air Force with the Command of the Air Force.”
The City Press on Sunday reported that the air force has cut the backup helicopter service it provided for Zuma’s family and friends travelling between Durban and Nkandla amid allegations of abuse. The backup Oryx helicopter from 15 Squandron, which usually flew with Zuma’s military transport, has been grounded because of lack of funds, according to reports.
The newspaper reported that insiders said that the Special Investigations Unit had begun to make enquiries into the alleged abuse. The backup Oryx, for which the presidency paid the SA National Defence Force R63,000 an hour instead of the R70,000 an hour standard commercial tariff, had been used by family and friends instead of security personnel, according to the report.
Zuma’s bodyguards were reportedly forced on “several occasions” to drive the three hours. The presidency on Sunday said that Zuma’s family do not use military helicopters to travel between Durban and Nkandla.
“The Presidency rejects the baseless and mischievous allegations made in City Press newspaper today that family members of President Jacob Zuma make use of a military helicopter for personal travel between Durban and Nkandla.
“Tasking for the President’s travel is made by the Presidency and it is stipulated clearly that the aircraft or helicopter is being booked for his use,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
He said that family members such as a spouse or a child may travel if accompanying Zuma.
The presidency has at no stage ever made bookings for family members travelling alone, Maharaj said. Maharaj said that the SA Air Force has also informed the presidency that no such misuse of the helicopters had occurred, he said.
“The City Press reporter was informed by both the Presidency and the department of defence that there is no truth in the rumour but the newspaper continued to publish,” said Maharaj.
“The presidency is alarmed by the blatant reporting of such an untruth, the purpose of which could only be to contribute to the stereotyping of the President and his family.”