Monday, November 21, 2005

DA opposes air-force training deal with Zim

21 November 2005 02:49

The opposition Democratic Alliance party has urged the government not to use Zimbabwean flying instructors to train South African Air Force (SAAF) pilots.

"The proposal is severely flawed on a number of accounts," said DA defence spokesperson Rafeek Shah, questioning if Zimbabwean Air Force instructors have sufficient knowledge of, or experience with, SAAF aircraft.

"They, for example, have no experience of our most basic trainer aircraft, the Astra Pilatus," he said in a statement released on Monday.

His concerns followed a military agreement signed last Thursday between Zimbabwe and South Africa under which Zimbabwean flying instructors will train SAAF pilots.

"Given that there are not even enough trained South African personnel to train pilots on the forthcoming Hawks, it is highly unlikely that the Zimbabweans will be able to offer training assistance on these aircraft, let alone the even more sophisticated Gripen fighter jets," Shah said.

He said these fighters, part of the country's controversial arms-acquisition process, have highly sophisticated avionics, "much more advanced than anything the Zimbabweans would have been exposed to".

He said there is every chance that as a result of this agreement, the South African taxpayer will have to pay for Zimbabwean pilots to be trained on the new jets in order to train South African cadets.

"It is morally bankrupt for South Africa to recruit instructors from the Zimbabwean military given its appalling human rights record. It is truly bizarre that instead of sending a clear message that human rights abuses will not be tolerated, we have chosen to enter even closer cooperation," he said. -- Sapa