PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s two Chimanimani-bound helicopters were yesterday forced to make a U-turn after reaching Mutare only to land in a golf course in Marondera, with one of them landing awkwardly, triggering fears that it could have developed a technical fault mid-air.
Mnangagwa was on his way to Chimanimani, Manicaland province, to reopen a road which was washed away by Cyclone Idai two years ago when the two helicopters were forced to turn back and make a sudden landing at Marondera Golf Course.
Although government sources claimed the landing was triggered by bad weather in Manicaland which forced the helicopters to fly back to Marondera, witnesses said one of the helicopters landed awkwardly at around 8am, suggesting that it could have developed a technical fault.
Security details in Marondera rushed to the scene soon after the helicopters landed, with Mnangagwa’s motorcade arriving 45 minutes later to whisk him away.
Mnangagwa later proceeded to Chimanimani by road, forcing changes to the programme after arriving late for the event.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa dismissed speculation that the choppers had developed technical faults, saying they were forced to land in Marondera due to bad weather.
“No, nothing like that happened. You can check with the presidential spokesperson George Charamba. But all I know is the President arrived late, his helicopters failed to land in Mutare due to bad weather and they returned to Marondera and later came by road,” she said.
This is not the first time Mnangagwa has been forced to abandon his helicopter.
Last month, he was forced to travel to Rutenga in Masvingo province by road after security concerns were raised over “faulty and aged” presidential helicopters.
In August, Mnangagwa’s chopper reportedly crash-landed about 65km from Harare when he was coming back to the capital from his Precabe Farm in Kwekwe.
This was after the helicopter developed a technical fault, according to sources.
The crash-landing happened in the Sandringham area, Matsvaire village, in Chegutu district.
In the same month, bad weather derailed Mnangagwa’s trip to Mutare, where he was expected to commission a medical oxygen and industrial gas plant at Feruka.
Addressing villagers in Chimanimani, Mnangagwa said the country would in March next year gazette that all missing Cyclone Idai victims be declared dead so that relatives can access death certificates and start processing the estates of the deceased.