Zimbabwe’s shady helicopter deal with Russia under scrutiny



Zimbabwe’s helicopter deal with Russia has raised eyebrows. Zimbabwe has received 18 new helicopters from Russia as part of a controversial public-private partnership deal that has sparked questions about its transparency and accountability. The government says the helicopters will be used for humanitarian and civilian purposes, but critics doubt its intentions and priorities.

The helicopters were unveiled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a ceremony at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday. He hailed the deal as a result of his efforts to re-engage with the international community and overcome the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. He also said the helicopters would help the country cope with natural disasters and emergencies.

The deal involves the Russian State Corporation (Rostec) and some unnamed private partners. It is worth about USD320 million and will see Zimbabwe acquire 32 helicopters by 2025. Seven more helicopters are expected to arrive soon.

The government claims that the helicopters will be used for various sectors, such as health, tourism, law enforcement, and disaster management. It says some of them will be used as ambulances to transport patients from remote areas to hospitals. It also says some of them will be leased to private operators to generate income for the country.

However, some sources have told BNN Breaking that some of the helicopters will also be used for VIP transport and military operations by the Air Force. They say the deal is a way of circumventing the sanctions that prevent Zimbabwe from buying weapons from certain countries.

Critics have also questioned why the deal was not done through a public tender process, as required by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act. They have demanded more information about the cost, terms, and conditions of the deal, as well as the identity and role of the private partners involved. They have accused the government of lacking transparency and accountability in its procurement processes.

The deal comes at a time when Zimbabwe is facing multiple challenges, such as economic crisis, social unrest, and political uncertainty. Some have argued that the government should focus on spending on health, education, and social services instead of buying expensive helicopters that may not benefit the majority of Zimbabweans. Others have welcomed the deal as a sign of improved relations with Russia and a boost for the tourism sector.

The deal reflects the long-standing ties between Zimbabwe and Russia, which date back to the liberation struggle. Russia has provided military and technical assistance to Zimbabwe in the past, including training for freedom fighters during the war of independence.

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