JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday countered opposition accusations that he is wasting millions of dollars on chartered jets at a time when the country's economy is struggling.
Zuma has had to use chartered aircraft because there are no reliable planes in the air force for official trips for him and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, his office said. It said it "agrees with the experts that the use of smaller aircraft for local travel and the general use of the SAAF fleet than hiring aircraft would be more cost-effective for government."
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South Africa's minister of defense and military veterans, has said in parliament that nearly $7 million has been allocated for the yearlong lease of a "VIP-configured jet" that is expected to be delivered to the air force on Nov. 1.
"There can be absolutely no justification for such extravagance while the South African economy is under extraordinary fiscal pressure and facing a potential ratings downgrade," the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, said in a statement.
In February, the South African air force sent a plane to pick up Zuma in Burundi after the presidential jet had technical problems. The government has said the jet will be replaced and that an aircraft will be leased in the meantime.
South Africa's ruling party has lost support partly because of voter dissatisfaction over corruption allegations against Zuma.
The president announced this week that he has paid the state more than $500,000 after being instructed to do so in a scandal over state-funded upgrades to his private home.
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