President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of encouraging “state capture” after he revealed that a United Arab Emirates (UAE) prince hired private jets for him.
Mnangagwa told the Zanu PF central committee on Friday that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed paid for the luxurious jet he used for his visit to the UAE recently.
The Zanu PF leader was trying to deflect pressure after his latest jaunts using expensive chartered planes sparked outrage but his boast about the “freebies” from the UAE has alarmed political analysts.
University of Zimbabwe political science guru Eldred Masunungure said Mnangagwa’s confession was more scandalous than his luxurious travels at the taxpayer’s expense.
“There are no free lunches. What we don’t know is what Zimbabwe is offering in return,” he said.
“I don’t think the crown prince can be so generous as to give out those planes and even go on to say it’s available for nothing.
“You know there must be a catch. I think his explanation brought more questions than answers.
“Zimbabweans find that quite troublesome and would like (to know about) the other part of the equation.”
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba last week told this publication that the government paid for the private jets that the president used for his trips.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube also told the Senate last Thursday that the president was using a travel budget that was approved by Parliament.
Masunungure said the revelation that the luxurious jets were available for Mnangagwa “on demand” and for free were worrying.
“I am actually not worried so much about the inconsistency between Mnangagwa and his spokesperson,” he said.
“I am more worried about the fact that a luxurious plane is available on demand by the president and whether Zimbabwe is mortgaging itself to the UAE.
“What price are we paying and what does it do to our national sovereignty?
“It is not good to be wasteful but it’s much better if Zimbabwe is struggling to pay and we know that we are paying and our national sovereignty is intact.”
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Mnangagwa was trying to cover-up for wasteful expenditure but ended up exposing a bigger scandal.
“There are two fundamental issues, the spokesperson to Mnangagwa came out and said it was cheaper to hire those planes and that indeed they were hiring those planes,” he said.
“Then we have [Mnangagwa] coming out at his own party central committee meeting and says no he was not hiring those planes but he was being given by the government of another country.
“Now this is not kindergarten stuff. You cannot get free lunches in this world.
“What has Zimbabwe done to deserve its travels to be sponsored by another country? What type of friendship is that?
“What are the deals? For how long? This is a clear classical example of state capture, or a clear cover up to wasteful expenditure.”
Harare-based political commentator Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa had exposed himself to manipulation by a foreign government.
“The president swore to serve Zimbabwe not foreign powers and his actions and decisions must not be compromised by foreign entities be they government or otherwise,” he said.
Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana refused to comment on the matter saying the ruling party had nothing to do with the president’s foreign trips.
Charamba was not available for comment. Mnangagwa has made at least 30 trips since he came into power after a coup in November 2017.
His predecessor Robert Mugabe became notorious for his many trips abroad, especially to Singapore where he regularly went for treatment, only that Mugabe hired Air Zimbabwe thereby saving the much needed foreign currency.
— The Standard