ED hires luxury Swiss plane to China

HARARE - President Emmerson Mnangagwa opted to hire a luxurious private plane to travel to China, abandoning the struggling national airliner Air Zimbabwe (AirZim), which has a plane of the same size albeit with no similar luxurious trappings.

In a cocktail of austerity measures meant to preserve thinning foreign currency — Mnangagwa’s administration announced early this year that they were opting for a smaller plane to save money — but this time around when he travelled to China on a State visit, he used an A/C type B767-200, registration number P4 CLA, a luxurious plane from Bahrain, owned by Switzerland-based Comlux Aviation.

Transport and Communication minister Joram Gumbo confirmed to the Daily News that Mnangagwa had chartered a plane to China but refused to disclose how much government coughed up.

“That is the standard practice; the charges are the same, so what is wrong with that?” said Gumbo, who accompanied Mnangagwa on  the trip.

Mnangagwa’s delegation included about 10 ministers and businessmen.

Aviation sources said the plane was way more expensive than using local planes, which do not have luxurious features found in the plane that Mnangagwa opted to use in his latest international jaunt.

“There is no way our planes could be same price as the one used to travel to China. Actually, the Air Zimbabwe plane costs a third of what they paid for.

“One has to understand that the plane has to come from a faraway location and then to China, when he returns it will go back to Bahrain and who will pay for the fuel and crew, obviously the Government of Zimbabwe,” said the source.

The source said Mnangagwa could have paid more than $1 million for the plane which has WiFi, among other trappings of luxury.

On its website, Comflux says the plane that Mnangagwa used “offers a unique and exclusive product to charter for Heads of State, royal families, and business leaders. Suitable for up to 63 passengers and able to fly up to 15 hours nonstop, the aircraft allows the principal and his executives to travel in extreme comfort and privacy, while a spacious section at the back is dedicated for the entourage and delegation”.

Former president Robert Mugabe used to charter a plane whenever AirZim’s fleet was grounded.

AirZim’s old fleet comprises two Boeing 767s, three 737s, three MA60s and two Airbus A320s. However, only four of those are flying: one airbus, one Boeing 767, one 737 and an MA60.

The debt-ridden flag carrier, which is said to be losing up to $3 million a month, is saddled with tens of millions in arrears.

Previously, concern was raised over the security and safety of the chartered planes.

Government sources said distrust still existed among ministers over the safety of the local planes.

Insiders say Mnangagwa might actually be more alarmed by the state of local planes which were given a damning assessment by the portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development, which reported a frequent breakdown of radios, and in some cases, pilots resorting to use of cell phones to communicate with controllers.

The report revealed how basic equipment such as microphones and handsets are in a sorry state and in short supply with no backup communication systems in the event of a breakdown of equipment.

Comments (1)

Its obvious why he sidelined Airzim. Do you think he was going to take himself and his deligation to fly Airzim an airline he knows is infested with Mugabe`s sympathisizers ? Kunyangwe uri iwe you would not have done that. Mugabe has his key people in Airzim everyone knows that.You maybe surprised to know that thier planned Marujata airline that was intended to takeover the national airline was getting all the support from inside Airzim.

Masamba Asiyana - Cremora - 4 April 2018

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