Mugabe-linked planes: Opposition demands judicial inquiry

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Staff Reporter

THE opposition People’s Democratic Party led by former Finance Minister Tendai Biti has called for a judicial inquiry into the controversial Zimbabwe Airways deal in which a shadowy company allegedly linked to the former President Robert Mugabe is suspected to have bought four aircraft from Malaysia using state funds.

Zimbabwe Airways is a new airline with links to the former First Family-owned Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC).

However, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is now claiming that ZALC is government company which it had used to acquire the planes from Malaysia, allegedly as a strategy to overcome sanctions.

In a statement Thursday, PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the controversies involving Zimbabwe Airways, Air Zimbabwe and central government exposed the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which claimed to have zero tolerance on corruption.

He said  the involvement of Treasury meant that public funds were used in the purchasing of the aircraft, adding the consolidated revenue fund was not  approved by parliament as stipulated by law, adding the new administration was failing to answer several questions being asked by Zimbabweans on whether the planes were being acquired by the state or not and why government was interested in the deal if it was not part of it.

Investigate the scandal

“With these questions keep flying around with no answer provided, we in the People’s Democratic Party and the MDC Alliance demand the following; that a judicial inquiry be set up to investigate the scandal; that the terms, conditions and details of the acquisition of the planes be brought before Parliament primarily to ensure the role of Parliament to oversee expenditure by the state is met,” said Mafume.

He said there should also be a full disclosure of the risk which led to the decommissioning of the jets by the Malaysian government, saying there was a possibility that they could endanger passengers, questioning the logic behind the purchasing of decommissioned planes whose safety record was very low.

He said statements by Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa and Transport Minister, Joram Gumbo pointed to an arrangement in which the state claimed to be leasing the planes to Zimbabwe Airways, which in itself seemed to represent collusion between the Mugabes and the Mnangagwas.

Mafume questioned how Air Zimbabwe could claim to have no plans to run the planes when the company had been in existence for decades yet Zimbabwe Airways, a new entity had a viable plan.

 “This sounds like a joke considering the fact that the people who ran Air Zimbabwe were at the centre of establishing Zimbabwe Airways.  Thirdly why would the state authorize the acquiring of planes when Air Zimbabwe had not presented a viable plan of how they were going to run the planes?

Chinamasa on Wednesday told delegates at a reception to receive one of the planes at the Robert Mugabe International Airport that ZALC was a government company, claiming the former first family had no interests in it.

“I am here to categorically state that the aeroplane standing outside is the property and an asset of the government of Zimbabwe. I know speculation has been rife that the airline belonged to the former first family. That is false,” he said.

But Mafume was adamant, saying Zanu PF was the same and the country should not expect any reforms.