PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly gobbled over $2,3 million to charter a private Swiss luxury jet to the Chinese capital, Beijing, sources in the aviation industry claimed yesterday.
Mnangagwa, who arrived in China on his first State visit to the Asian country since he took over the levers of power from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe last November, has been accused of snubbing the limping national airline, Air Zimbabwe, preferring 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.
“Air Zimbabwe had offered to take the presidential delegation to China for $1,9 million but government opted for a luxurious private jet owned by Switzerland-based aviation management company, Comlux at a cost of $2,3 million.
“This probably excludes costs related to the crew for the eight days of the President’s State visit to China,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said adding Mnangagwa used Comlux’s most prized asset, the VIP Boeing 767.
According to internationally-recognised rating agent, S&P Global, 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.
Comlux’s Goana describes BB767 as “probably one of the most amazing aircraft in the VIP charter markets”.
It can fly 15 hours non-stop and has a capacity to carry 60 passengers with facilities that allow the “principal to be ready for business on landing”.
Chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda yesterday said he had no information on Mnangagwa’s travel arrangements.
“I would not know such things. I deal with administration of government. (Chief of protocol, Munyaradzi) Kajese would have a better idea,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s special adviser, Christopher Mutsvangwa said:“It’s a long flight … needs non-stop capacity … Air Zimbabwe flights have no similar capacity, as they have to make a refuelling stop-over. Our bilateral State visit need not needlessly burden third countries with security and protocol.”
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer, Joseph Makonese would also not be drawn into commenting on the matter, claiming he was away on holiday.
“I am not aware because I am on a break. Ask our communications manager, (Tafadzwa) Mazonde,” he said.
Mazonde was not available for comment.
Efforts to get comment from Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha were futile.
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, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast inside the last three months.
The government has in the past few years unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate Air Zimbabwe.