PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s two helicopters bound for Chimanimani in Manicaland province were Wednesday morning made a sudden U-turn in Mutare.
According to reports the choppers later landed at Marondera Golf Course, raising serious concerns one of them had developed a technical fault while mid-air.
Mnangagwa was flying to Chimanimani to reopen a road washed away by Cyclone Idai in 2019.
Government sources claimed the landing was triggered by bad weather in Manicaland which forced the helicopters to fly back to Marondera.
However, witnesses say one of the helicopters landed awkwardly at around 8 am in Marondera, suggesting it could have developed a technical fault.
State security details in Marondera rushed to the scene soon after the helicopters landed, with Mnangagwa’s motorcade arriving 45 minutes later to whisk him away.
He was forced to abandon the air travel proceeded to Chimanimani by road, arriving late for the event.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa dismissed speculation that the choppers had developed technical faults, saying they were forced to land in Marondera due to bad weather.
“No, nothing like that happened. You can check with the presidential spokesperson George Charamba. But all I know is the President arrived late. His helicopters failed to land in Mutare due to bad weather and they returned to Marondera and later came by road,” she said.
Mnangagwa has been on whirlwind tours across the country in recent months addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters in clear disregard of Covid-19 regulations which bar public gatherings of more than 100 people.
Last month, he was forced to travel to Rutenga in Masvingo province by road after security concerns were raised over “faulty and aged” presidential helicopters.
In August, Mnangagwa’s chopper reportedly crash-landed about 65km from Harare when he was coming back to the capital from his Precabe Farm in Kwekwe.
This was after the helicopter developed a technical fault, according to sources.
The crash-landing happened in the Sandringham area, Matsvaire village, in Chegutu.
In the same month, bad weather again derailed Mnangagwa’s trip to Mutare, where he was expected to commission a medical oxygen and industrial gas plant at Feruka.
Addressing villagers in Chimanimani Wednesday, Mnangagwa said the country would in March next year gazette that all missing Cyclone Idai victims be declared dead so that relatives can access death certificates and start processing the estates of the deceased.