The possibility of acquiring a VVIP jet for President Jacob Zuma is still on the table, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday.
The council of defence had decided that “the process for a full acquisition should succeed”, she told MPs in reply to questions in the National Assembly.
“We had to cancel the process because the bids we received did not meet the critical user requirements,” she said.
"However, the SA National Defence Force inquiry for an additional long-range aircraft still remains.”
The defence force currently had four executive jets, two of which were “unserviceable”.
The four were the president's current jet, a Falcon 900 for the deputy president, and two “unserviceable” Falcon 50s.
The president's jet cost R84 000 per hour to operate, and the Falcon 900 and Falcon 50 R54 000 per hour.
They were just used to ferry “the principals” and also offered pilots the opportunity to get training.
Democratic Alliance MP Sarel Marais, who posed the question, asked her if General Fabian Msimang, who addressed the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans earlier this year, was lying when he said the president's jet was safe and serviceable.
"Yes, we still have an obligation as the defence force to buy an aircraft," she answered.
“It's always easy for officials to say yes it's serviceable, or yes it's not serviceable. At times it takes time to even understand what it means to be unserviceable. At least it has taken me years to understand that.”
She said what gave her sleepless nights was whether the aircraft would reach its destination, or something would happen along the way.
In one instance the aircraft could not bring back the official because there were fuel fumes inside the aircraft, in another the aircraft would not take off.
"Our major responsibility is to ensure the safety of our principal."