ZimLive has reported that President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday, April 15, took delivery of a US$18 million helicopter (Airbus Helicopters H215).
The publication further claims that Mnangagwa intends to use the helicopter for the 2023 election campaign.
The chopper reportedly arrived in a Russian Antonov AN-124 which was still on the tarmac at Zimbabwe’s main airport on Sunday morning.
An anonymous military source who spoke to the publication said:
There have been concerns about the safety of the Cougar currently in service. President Mnangagwa will be doing a lot of domestic travel to remote parts of the country leading up to 2023 and that’s why this purchase was approved.
It is unclear how the purchase was financed, or why the Antonov picked up its cargo from Poland which does not have a production facility for the H215 helicopter – although Romania, nearby, has a factory in the city of Brasov where the H215 is assembled.
Whilst the H215 is a civilian helicopter, its custodians will be the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
The European Union (EU) sanctions prohibit the export of military equipment to Zimbabwe which means the purchase will most likely be scrutinised by sanctions monitors.
The delivery comes just weeks after suspected arms dealer Alexander Zingman, Zimbabwe’s honorary consul to Belarus, travelled to Harare.
Zingman previously brokered a deal between Zambia’s government and the Russian state-owned arms company, Rosoboronexport, which saw the southern African country take delivery of five Sukhoi jets from Russia in 2017.
This is happening when Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is continuing unabated and when Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF is accused of abusing state resources for political gain.