Zimbabwe Gets 18 Helicopters From Russia In Partnership Deal

9 months agoFri, 19 May 2023 08:30:33 GMT
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Zimbabwe Gets 18 Helicopters From Russia In Partnership Deal

Zimbabwe has received 18 medical, air policing, search, and rescue helicopters from Russia as part of a public-private partnership between the two nations.

President Mnangagwa received the helicopters at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and they will be deployed in the health and security sectors, as well as during natural disasters. 

Some helicopters are intended for air policing and search and rescue missions during natural disasters, with additional helicopters set to arrive in the future. State media reports that the partnership is an indication of growing relations between Harare and Moscow.

The ruling ZANU PF stated that 32 helicopters will be delivered by 2025 for approximately $320 million, emphasizing the government’s successful delivery of the first batch.

Award-winning journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono criticised the procurement of helicopters from Russia, highlighting the high cost compared to popular models and questioning the need for them. He argued that the funds should be used for essential equipment like radiotherapy and MRI machines, X-ray machines, maternity theatres, and medicines for hospitals. In a Twitter post seen by Pindula News, Chin’ono said:

Usanetseke neNetOne airtime.

Baya *405# utenge neEcoCash

The world’s most popular helicopter, the Robinson R44, costs US$420,000 brand new, and only half that second-hand. A top-of-the-range AgustaWestland Grand costs US$6 million. Yet here you are telling us that you are buying helicopters for US$10 million, daylight robbery of public funds. Real looting! Zimbabwe doesn’t need helicopters, it needs working radiotherapy machines, it needs working MRI machines, it needs working X-Ray machines, it needs maternity theaters, it needs medicines in hospitals. Stop stealing public funds and attempting to sell a stupid idea!

Dr Walter Mzembi, former Tourism Minister, told Pindula News that the government’s purchases would face public scrutiny. He said while the intention to improve civil disaster response and air policing is positive, citizens are sceptical due to past scandals and lack of trust. The public will analyze prices and costs to ensure fair procurement. The recently rescinded Statutory Instrument (SI) seeking to stop the public from knowing procurement costs does not help restore trust. The most topical issue on the streets is the cost of procurement and the quality of the products. Dr Mzembi told this reporter:

There is no purchase or deal by this government that will escape public scrutiny henceforth especially after inaction on many scandals where the public expects action. So whilst the intention is laudable to improve efficiency on civil disaster response and air policing our educated citizenry first reaction to any government purchases is to google prices and do price benchmarks and cost benefit analyses . They do so because there has been an irreparable breach of trust and Government ‘s appetite to abdicate procurement to politicians and the recent rescinded SI seeking to stop public from knowing costs of procurement does not help restore trust . So the most topical issue on the streets right now is at what cost was the procurement done and Government seems indicted already based on the comparisons, quality and pricing for similar products.

Russia delivers helicopters to Zimbabwe amid controversy over health asset procurement disclosure ban. President Mnangagwa reversed the ban after public outroar arguing that General Notice 635 of 2023 which announced the ban had been published without proper authorisation and signature.

The withdrawal came shortly after the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) explained that the ban on disclosing the procurement of health assets was initiated to allow urgent direct procurement without bureaucracy.

Critics argued that the ban could lead to corruption, misuse of public funds, poor quality goods, erode public trust, and harm the government’s credibility and service provision.

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