Normally, ‘weird’ can be funny – if not downright hilarious – but, in Zimbabwe, ‘weird’ can border on life and death.
As a matter of fact, on the issue I am about to discuss, this can easily become a matter of an entire nation’s security.
What I read recently, is one of those matters.
So the government of Zimbabwe is seriously contemplating purchasing a new presidential helicopter – as a result of recent reports of breakdowns and forced landings of the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) chopper used by president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, which were largely attributable to the antiquated nature of the entire fleet.
On the surface, the idea of a new mode of air travel for the president is a noble one – considering how his life is at potential risk, with the continued use of the current clearly outdated and overused fleet.
In fact, four people – three airforce personnel, and a child in a house – tragically lost their lives in a harrowing AFZ helicopter crush on April 23, 2021…besides so many other reported incidents in other parts of the country.
The case for new military equipment and hardware can never be argued – as a matter of national security – however, this is not what we are hearing from the government of Zimbabwe.
What the information ministry permanent secretary, Nick Ndabaningi Mangwana, said on 11 November 2021 – in response to a NewsDay report alleging, ‘ED (Mnangagwa) mid-air scare’ – was that, regardless of the veracity of the claims, nonetheless, a case for a ‘new, safe and dynamic presidential helicopter had been made’.
Granted, the president clearly needs a ‘new, safe and dynamic helicopter’ – but, should all these dangerous incidents actually not make a case for something even more urgent and imperative for the country as a whole?
Do these ‘mid-air scares’, and forced landings not speak to the immediate need for ‘new, safe, dynamic helicopters for the entire Air Force of Zimbabwe’?
Let us remember that the president obviously travels with the best the country has to offer – and, if this ‘best’ means a helicopter that embarrassingly and frequently breaksdown – then, what does that say about the rest of the choppers (and, by extension, our entire military hardware)?
Does this not paint a very disturbing picture of a country whose national security is severely compromised?
As such, should the case here not be on our collective national security – rather than an individual, no matter how important he may be?
If the Zimbabwe regime had its priorities right – something they have displayed a troubling deficiency – then, our territorial integrity, and national sovereignty would be topping the list, instead of merely focusing on preserving the life of the president.
In fact, as much as I am not much of a numbers person – as writers seldom are – I would think the costs involved in procuring a presidential chopper will be much more than two or so good military ones.
We all know that our leaders love the lavish and plush – even if that is at the already suffering and overly-burdened taxpayers’ expense – and, the envisioned presidential helicopter will be no exception.
Yet, if the government were to acquire two or three ‘new, safe and dynamic’ AFZ helicopters – presumably, at more or less the same cost as an extravagant presidential one – the country’s head of state can always use one of them when needed.
On the other hand, a purely presidential helicopter – bought specifically for that purpose – will practically be a white elephant, as it will spend most of its time parked wherever they keep such things.
Let the primary focus be the people of Zimbabwe – not only one person of Zimbabwe!
It is time that the ruling elite stopped being selfish – by thinking only of themselves, and their own luxuries – but, place the interests of the country first.
If the ruling elite are that eager for a life of opulence, let them buy their own private jets (using their own monies) – and, leave public finds purely for public use.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured