HARARE – According to Zimlive Air Zimbabwe will take delivery of one of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft acquired from Malaysia on Monday, almost four years after the deal was negotiated.
Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza is in Malaysia to conclude the deal for the planes.
The late former President Robert Mugabe personally negotiated the acquisition of four Boeing 777-200 planes which had been retired by Malaysian Airlines in 2016 after one of their fleet disappeared without trace and another was shot down over Ukraine.
Zimbabwe Airways, the ill-fated state-owned successor to Air Zimbabwe whose livery appears on the aircraft, had been quoted $18,5 million each for two of the planes which were then five-years-old, and $16,5 million each for the other two which were 11-years-old, according to former transport minister Joram Gumbo.
A 2017 military coup which ousted Mugabe put the delivery of the planes on the back-burner as Zimbabwe defaulted on payments, amid claims that the plane deal was plagued by corruption.
The new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa collapsed Zimbabwe Airways, which was headed by Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore, and transferred its assets – including the planes – to Air Zimbabwe.
To date, Zimbabwe has fully paid only two of the four planes – 9M-MRQ and Z-RGM, formerly 9M-MRP. The latter, set to be delivered on Monday, was named in honour of President Mugabe.
Matiza said the second plane would be delivered within weeks, but offered no information on the other two planes – 9M-MRL and 9M-MRM – which were flown to the United States in November 2018, and are believed to be still in Kansas in the state of Missouri.
Data from online flight tracking website FlightRadar shows that Z-RGM, now a 15-year-old plane, on January 16 went on a test flight from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport located in Subang before returning to the same airport after a one-hour, 49-minute flight over the Strait of Malacca during which it climbed to 40,000 feet.