be in Bulawayo recently.
BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government is scouting for a long haul jet and two helicopters to ferry President Robert Mugabe, senior ministers and members of the First Family.
Authoritative sources said government wanted to get an Airbus 320 as Mugabe was unhappy with his ageing trademark white helicopter and the two accompanying military escort helicopters, which he is said not to like any more because of its short haul nature and intermittent breakdowns.
The purchase of the Airbus 320 is reportedly being delayed due to concerns by security chiefs that bringing in civilian pilots and crew would put the safety of Mugabe at risk. Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba was not available for comment as he was said to be at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
The Zimbabwean heard that the Ministry of Defence had been in touch with top executives from the European consortium Airbus Industrie requesting quotations for the Airbus 320. Airbus Industries CEO Louis Gallois had not responded to an e-mail sent to his office by the time of going to print.
It remains unclear if the presidential aircraft is covered under the military embargo imposed on Harare by the EU, or how the purchase would be classified.
It is understood that the aircraft, which is for the “exclusive use” of President Mugabe might occasionally be leased out to the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, which is currently experiencing a shortage of aircraft following the depletion of its Boeing 707 and 767 fleet.
Demonstrations against Muga