Sunday 21 May 2023


President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been criticised for presiding over a controversial deal that saw Zimbabwe acquire 32 helicopters from Russia worth a staggering US$320 million without following laid down procurement procedures amid allegations the prices for the choppers were inflated.

Mnangagwa took delivery of 18 out of the 32 Kazan Ansat helicopters from Russia under a public-private partnership (PPP) deal last week.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday accused Mnangagwa’s administration of unlawfully purchasing the helicopters as procurement procedures were not followed.

 The US$320 million deal has been shrouded in secrecy.

According to a search, the helicopter costs US$2.5 million each when new but indications are that Zimbabwe bought second hand choppers.

Government said the choppers would be used as air ambulances, search and rescue, and air policing while sources said they would also be used for VIP transport and the Air Force.

Biti told The Standard that the procurement was illegal and it should be challenged.

“Remember all expenditures are approved in Parliament, but this expenditure was never approved in the budget,” Biti said.

 “It means that it’s an unlawful purchase. The country’s procurement law makes it very clear that there has to be competitive bidding during a procurement process and certainly this was not done.

“The state should challenge the immorality of this. Why are they buying helicopters when civil servants are not properly paid?”

He accused the government of being corrupt and having misplaced priorities.

 “US$320 million is a lot of money and their bigger priority is buying helicopters,” Biti remarked.

“It’s now self-evident that the prices are inflated, this also means that the brand new helicopter will cost US$2,5 million yet we are being sold a second hand helicopter at almost the same amount.

“The problem that we have as a country is that we now have a kleptomaniac government, so anything that happens they are just thinking about money, corruption and the bottom line of their self-aggrandisement.”

Biti said he would raise the matter in Parliament and ask the relevant committee to investigate the matter.

Commentators and observers also questioned why government prioritised helicopters when hospitals and clinics did not have painkillers and other medical accessories.

"The sidelining of Parliament in procurement is a step backwards and a shot on the same foot,” Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) programmes manager John Maketo said, adding that the deal  showed lack of political will to fight corruption.

Mnangagwa promised to fight graft when he assumed office.

However, massive corruption scandals involving the first family and other government ministers and Zanu PF officials have been exposed.

“The public anger on the procurement of helicopters is genuine because the priority is not good looking at the current situation in the country where hospitals have no medicines,” Maketo said.

Political analyst Kundai Jirira said the decision was tantamount to misappropriation of funds.

“They should stop stealing public funds and attempting to sell a stupid idea,” Jirira said.

“The situation in urban areas also mirrors the rural areas but the government is hereby acquiring ambulance helicopters worth more than US$320 million.”

Mnangagwa has been under the spotlight following an attempt to smuggle a law that would have seen procurement processes in the Health ministry being hidden away from the prying eyes of the public and anti-corruption watchdogs.

General Notice 635 gazetted on May 5 was criticised as a looting law and was later withdrawn following a public outcry.

Mnangagwa repealed the controversial law in an extraordinary Government gazette last week. Standard




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