PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday ditched the struggling Air Zimbabwe and hired a private Swiss luxury jet to fly him to Tanzania for a meeting with his counterpart, John Magufuli.
According to government sources, Mnangagwa ignored Air Zimbabwe which had charged him $131 000 for his two-day trip to Tanzania and opted for the luxurious jet – Comlux – headquartered in Switzerland with a global presence around the world. The plane, according to sources, flew from its Swiss base to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to fetch the President. In April, Mnangagwa reportedly blew $2,3 million to charter the same plane on his State visit to Beijing, China.
“The Office of President had approached Air Zimbabwe for a quote on how much they would charge the President, for a regional trip, but we were all surprised when he opted to hire the private jet. Normally, regional routes are given to Air Zimbabwe, but we don’t understand why he opted otherwise,” said a senior government official.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was not available for comment as he was said to have travelled together with Mnangagwa. At the time of going to print last night, Charamba had not responded to a text message sent to him, but sources said the decision to hire Comlux was made on Tuesday while Air Zimbabwe was only informed on Wednesday evening.
“The bookings for the presidential flights are normally made by the department of protocol in the OPC and we still don’t know why the national airline was left out,” another source said.
Attempts to get a quotation from Comlux were fruitless as their marketing department had not responded to emailed questions from NewsDay.
Mnangagwa’s special adviser, Christopher Mutsvangwa said: “I don’t know really because I am in Norton campaigning, but I think it is because he is due to proceed to the AU (African Union) Summit in Mauritania so that could be the reason, but as I said, I am not in office at the moment.”
Since he took over from former President Robert Mugabe last November, Mnangagwa has been accused of snubbing the limping national airline, preferring expensive chartered private jets.
In January, Mnangagwa also hired a private jet to Davos, Switzerland, as well as when he travelled to South Africa early this year.
Internationally-recognised rating agent, S&P Global, indicates that Comlux is rated as an integrated group in the aviation sector specialising in Airbus and Boeing, with the former typically chartered by Heads of State, royal families, business leaders or sports teams.
The aircraft includes a private bedroom with en-suite bathroom, office, dining and living room, plus room for entourage and staff.
It has cargo space for over 250 bags, and can even transport multiple cars.
Efforts to get comment from Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha were fruitless.
The new Zanu-PF leader, who seems to have taken over from where Mugabe left in terms of trips outside the country, has been to Mozambique, twice to Botswana, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast within three months.