Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Government paid US$1,3 million to hire a private jet for President Mnangagwa’s trip to China last week, contrary to reports in some sections of the private media that the trip gobbled US$2,3 million.
Presidential Press Secretary Mr George Charamba yesterday explained the rationale behind hiring the plane ahead of Air Zimbabwe, saying using the national flag carrier entailed that the President was supposed to leave earlier as it would make a stopover in Singapore.
He said the hired private jet was a long-haul plane that covered the distance to China in one stretch.
In line with President Mnangagwa’s commitment to run a transparent Government, Mr Charamba showed journalists receipts and invoices of the amount paid to Comlux by Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The invoices showed that Government paid US$1, 396, 000 and attached to the invoice was a note acknowledging the payment from Comlux by its Charter Sales manager Harilal Mohanan.
“The President perfectly understood the basis of the criticism and wondered where the figure of US$2,3 million had come from,” said Mr Charamba.
“There is an apparent element of disgruntlement on the part of some officials from Air Zimbabwe who have always read the President’s travel as an opportunity to get travel and subsistence allowance.
“Really, people have been making some financial rewards from accompanying the President? Except, that is only possible in circumstances where Air Zimbabwe is kitted to be able to do the stretch where the President will be covering and in this particular case it would have meant the President would have to do a stop-over in Singapore and make a second whoop to China.
“By that, it would have meant leaving much earlier. So, what you save by way of contracting an Air Zimbabwe plane you still incur by the length of travel and then the two checkmate each other.
“Not even to talk about the convenience and security issues which come with whooping and stopping and whooping again.”
Mr Charamba said the hired private jet was even cheaper than Air Zimbabwe and another airline approached by Government which had quoted them over US$2 million and slightly below US$2 million respec- tively.
“Incidentally, the first plane which we had got would have cost us an upward of US$2 million,” he said. “Air Zimbabwe also did its own quote which was also slightly below US$2 million, but still very high.
“We went about knocking from other people from the private sector who are fairly familiar with various airlines and then it emerged that it was possible for us to get a much cheaper plane with long haul which would cover China in one stretch.”
The private media last week was abuzz with reports that Government had spent US$2,3 million to hire a “luxurious” plane for President Mnangagwa and his delegation.