President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s private jet aborted take-off from Lyon on Thursday night after the pilots reported a technical problem with the aircraft, ZimLive can reveal.
The 77-year-old leader was already onboard and the plane was ready for take-off when the pilots reported a technical issue with the luxuriously-fitted Boeing 737-700 owned by Royal Jet of the United Arab Emirates.
Mnangagwa had just attended the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment Conference in the French city and was returning home on the 20-year-old aircraft.
A source said: “The president and his delegation were forced to disembark.
“Another plane was sent from Abu Dhabi to pick them up the following day (October 11) and they arrived in Harare early on Saturday.”
Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba had not responded to our request for a comment.
Mnangagwa left Harare on the luxury jet, registration A6-RJX, on October 8 to attend Uganda’s independence celebrations.
He arrived in Lyon on October 10, and spoke to delegates at the international conference to raise money to combat AIDS, TB and malaria on the same day.
Flight tracking websites on Sunday showed that the Boeing 737 was still grounded in Lyon.
Royal Jet did not respond to our e-mailed questions about the incident.
On Sunday, a Twitter account run by Charamba posted pictures of the president eating mazondo/amangqina while inside a plane, believed to be the replacement aircraft that finally flew him to Harare.
The interior of the plane looked slightly more cramped than on the plane that took him to Dubai. The Boeing 737’s interior has been filmed several times by journalists, and it features a more spacious seating set-up.
“On our way from Lyon, France, President ED treated all of us his senior staff members to a surprise: sadza nemazondo! Having spent a few days without that staple, and least expecting it in mid-air, above the land of Gauls, we hungrily made sure there was no dry season,” Charamba wrote, using his Twitter handle @jamwanda2.
He said in another tweet: “The pots; the President; the salt and the zondo! The little-known side of President ED Mnangagwa is the gastronomic one! He loves his curdled milk or hodzeko in Shona; loves bony Zimbabwean beef, including mazondo. He moderately drinks, and strictly from January 1 to June 30.”
Charamba suggested that Mnangagwa’s eating habits were “metaphoric of his entire outlook to life” – a suggestion Mnangagwa is humble.
But Zimbabweans on Twitter rounded on Charamba, pointing out that there was no humility in flying private jets around the world.
“When I grow up, I also want to eat mazondo on a private jet,” said one.
Mnangagwa took two ministers – Mthuli Ncube (finance minister) and Amon Murwira (acting foreign affairs minister) – to the Lyon conference, while most countries sent directors or their health ministers.
Mnangagwa attended a graduation ceremony at Bindura University of Science and Education on Saturday where he was awarded an honorary degree in peace and governance.