HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa hired a US$30,000-per-hour Swiss luxury jet to fly him to Japan last week, leaving the Zimbabwean taxpayer with a bill of over US$1.7 million, ZimLive can reveal.
The same jet, a Boeing 767 BBJ which has previously been used by the royal family from oil-rich Saudi Arabia, is expected to fly Mnangagwa to New York for the United Nations General Assembly later next month at roughly the same cost.
Mnangagwa left Harare for Japan on August 26, and was expected to leave Japan on Friday following the closing ceremony of the 2019 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
The broke Zimbabwe government has called on citizens to “take the pain” while it implements unpopular austerity measures. But Mnangagwa’s 40 foreign trips since coming to power in December 2017, over 90 percent of which have been undertaken on luxury private jets hired from Dubai, have fuelled resentment against his regime.
The Boeing 767, with registration P4-CLA, has in the past been used by Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the son of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and a younger brother of the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The UK Daily Mail newspaper reported in 2018 that the plane costs US$30,000 per flying hour. A return 18-hour flight to Tokyo in Japan would have cost about US$1.1 million. Zimbabwe must also pay the aircraft’s repositioning fees from Switzerland, about 20 hours in all, costing US$600,000.
The cost does not include wait time fees accrued for time when the plane was not flying waiting for Mnangagwa’s return trip.
The customized plane, which has 63 seats, a master bedroom and an 18-hour range, is managed by Swiss firm Comlux, although it is owned by the government of Kazakhstan.
Richard Gaona, the Comlux CEO and chairman says the plane is “one of the most amazing aircraft in the VIP shuttle market.”
“The reason is, first of all, range. This aircraft can fly 15 hours and 30 minutes anywhere in the world; can carry 250 bags and 60 passengers. It’s a limitless aircraft,” he told the Aviation International News in 2017.
The jet has three sections. Available to Mnangagwa are three rooms: a private office, a luxury bedroom suite and a living room with a dining area.
A second zone has 25 first class seats which can turn around. A third zone also has leather seats and is suitable for the VIP’s entourage and security team.
Mnangagwa took a delegation of over 40 people to Japan, some travelling ahead of his arrival. His delegation included Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, Lands and Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri and the Trade and Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.
Each member of the delegation, including journalists from state media, pick up a minimum US$1,500 per day, rising to US$2,000 from director level upwards.
Mnangagwa has justified the foreign travel bill as necessary in his so-far-unsuccessful efforts to bring Zimbabwe out of international isolation.
The 76-year-old has however hired jets from Dubai for domestic flights as well, making a nonsense of government explanations that his travel bill is geared towards re-engagement with the international community.
Mnangagwa’s Foreign Trips Since Taking Power in 2017
December 2017: Pretoria, South Africa
January 2018: Davos, Switzerland
January 2018: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
January 2018: Luanda, Angola
January 2018: Windhoek, Namibia
January 2018: Lusaka, Zambia
January 2018: Windhoek, Namibia
January 2018: Maputo, Mozambique
February 2018: Gaborone, Botswana
March 2018: Gaborone, Botswana
March 2018: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
March 2018: Kigali, Rwanda
April 2018: Beijing, China
May 2018: Doha, Qatar
June 2018: Nouakchott, Mauritania
June 2018: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
July 2018: Johannesburg, South Africa
August 2018: Windhoek, Namibia
September 2018: Beijing, China
September 2018: New York, United States
October 2018: Lusaka, Zambia
November 2018: Conakry, Guinea
November 2018: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
January 2019: Moscow, Russia
January 2019: Minsk, Belarus
January 2019: Baku, Azerbaijan
January 2019: Astana, Kazakhstan
February 2019: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
March 2019: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
March 2019: Luanda, Angola
March 2019: Pretoria, South Africa
May 2019: Pretoria, South Africa
May 2019: Kasane, Botswana
June 2019: Lusaka, Zambia
June 2019: Maputo, Mozambique
July 2019: Kigali, Rwanda
July 2019: Niamey, Niger
July 2019: Windhoek/Walvis Bay, Namibia
August 2019: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
August 2019: Yokohama, Japan