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Mnangagwa keeps private jet on standby

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa has hired a luxurious private jet for over a week despite growing concerns over his profligate spending, it has been revealed.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told The Standard in an exclusive interview yesterday that the Airbus A318-100, which flew seven hours and 16 minutes from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to be in position in Harare before Mnangagwa’s flight to Bulawayo on Thursday, remained in the country ahead of another foreign trip by Mnangagwa to South Africa tomorrow.

“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 25-26 March 2019 in Pretoria,” Charamba said.

“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.”

Since he took over through a military-assisted process in 2017, Mnangagwa has projected himself as a simple leader who wants to cut costs, but instead, he has often used hired private jets for most of his foreign trips.

Last week he had to use a hired jet for a local trip to Bulawayo where he met civil society members, raising questions on his sincerity to tackle public expenditure.

Charamba said his boss was committed to cost-cutting and his officials were feeling the pinch.

“Let me pre-empt you; I know you would want to ask why not use scheduled flights for the president. Here is a tricky issue. One, it is very risky to do that for both the president and the airline. In this case, we are talking of a national airline which has one aircraft to service all its routes. If the president was to use a scheduled flight, it means that all the luggage in that flight will be opened and subjected to search by our security systems,” he said.

‘This inconveniences the reputation of the airline and the passengers. Also, the passengers themselves will have to be subjected to those security systems and this definitely will lead in some people leaving the airline and it loses business. Also when the president is flying, he would fly in the business class and no one will be allowed there.”

Charamba added: “Just imagine you as a reporter you are supposed to fly to South Africa and you have bought your business class ticket and just because the president has joined the flight, you will have to move to the economy class.

This will definitely lead to some people abandoning the airline. Remember the aviation business works on a patronage system and losing one customer is a big blow, which no airline would risk.”

“So we look at all those factors and if you are to look at the opportunity cost, you are bound to agree with us that hiring an aircraft for the president is much better than going through all those challenges. Key to this, the scheduled flight will have to change its time to suit the president. This is dangerous for any airline.

Talking about the Bulawayo trip and the idea that the president could have used a scheduled flight, it meant that he would need to divert the Harare-Johannesburg route to go via Bulawayo. Do you think people were going to agree to that? So really let us be realistic when we discuss some of these issues,” Charamba said.

The deputy chief secretary also defended the use of private jets by Vice-Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi and other senior government officials whenever they fall ill, saying it was part of their conditions of service.

“This is part of conditions of service for the top three. Even ministers, if their conditions of service stipulate that they should be airlifted whenever they need medical attention at the expense of the state, it must be done. Even top civil servants, if their benefits include airlifting, there is nothing that we can do to change that, it is in their contracts,” Charamba said. The Standard

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NEWS

Kembo Mohadi resigns amid sex scandal

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Kembo Mohadi sex scandal

Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi resigned on Monday following local media reports he had engaged in improper conduct.

Kembo Mohadi, along with Constantino Chiwenga, was a deputy to President Emmerson Mnangagwa since 2018, but without a political power base, he was not seen as a potential successor to the president.

In a rare move by a public official in Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi said he had taken the decision to step down “not as a matter of cowardice but as a sign of demonstrating great respect to the office of the President”.

I have been going through a soul-searching pilgrimage and realised that I need the space to deal with my problem outside the governance chair,” he said in a statement released by the Ministry of Information.

Local online media service ZimLive has in the past two weeks carried reports that Kembo Mohadi had improper sexual liaisons with married women, including one of his subordinates.

Mohadi, 70, denied the accusations last week saying this was part of a political plot against him. On Monday he continued to deny the accusations saying he would seek legal recourse.

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Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

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Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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