PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed allegations that the lavish jets he used on his recent trips to the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Bulawayo had drained Treasury, saying they did not cost the State a penny.
Addressing a Zanu PF central committee meeting yesterday, Mnangagwa said the plane hire was funded by the Crown Prince of the UAE, who had also pledged to keep a jet on standby for him as and when he wanted to travel.
“I was invited by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed. He hosted us well. You hear people saying I flew with a luxury jet. Those are lies, they sent us a plane,” he said.
“We did not pay anything for that plane. The crown prince sent the aeroplane to pick us up and we went and it dropped us. I told him we had a problem with availability of planes, and he said whenever I want to travel, all I need to do is call.”
Mnangagwa said he laughs every time he reads or hears people comment over his travel using expensive and luxurious jets.
“Those who don’t know will just be pushing lies and saying we are spending money from the national budget. Then I just laugh,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s statements appeared to contradict what his spokesperson George Charamba said recently.
Charamba told our sister paper, The Standard, that Mnangagwa had hired the jet because it was cheaper and convenient for his entourage.
“Then coming to the Bulawayo issue, the aircraft you are talking about came in on Thursday and has been here preparing to take the President to South Africa for the Sadc Solidarity Conference on Western Sahara, scheduled for March 25 to 26, 2019 in Pretoria,” Charamba said last week.
“We booked the aircraft to be here until it brings back the President from the summit on Tuesday. If you were going to check, the aircraft is currently at the tarmac of the domestic flights and it is cheaper to hire the aircraft for days than to hire it on the day when the President wants to fly out.”
Zanu PF youth league deputy secretary Lewis Matutu challenged those who are saying government hired the plane to provide proof of payment.
“President Mnangagwa was invited to UAE and was provided with all the travel arrangements, including a private jet to and from UAE. He was also offered the same jet to South Africa before it went back to UAE. Those saying it was hired must provide proof of payment,” he said.