Zimbabwe on Wednesday took delivery of two planes, with one that is named after its former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
The planes Boeing 777 (Z-RGM) aircraft and an Embraer plane were purchased from Malaysia, the finance minister said, adding that they would be leased to a new local airline until national carrier Air Zimbabwe returned to profitability.
Patrick Chinamasa said government had agreed with an unnamed Malaysian firm to buy four Boeing 777 planes at the cost of $70 million but had so far paid for two. The government had also paid for a small Embraer plane and plans to add five more such aircraft.
There was an elaborate ceremony to welcome the Boeing plane to the Robert Mugabe International Airport.
Aside the Mugabe-themed plane and airport, other national facilities named after the former leader are a road in the capital Harare and a national square. Plans are also afoot for the establishment of a university in his name.
The new planes are owned by a state-owned special purpose entity called Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company. The national flier, Air Zimbabwe, has faced a financial and operation crisis in the last few years.
He said, however, the government could not continue supporting loss-making Air Zimbabwe because it was like “putting resources into a bottomless pit.” Air Zimbabwe has debts of more than $300 million.
“Air Zimbabwe must put their house in order and as long as they don’t put their house in order, these planes I can lease to any third party who can pay treasury the lease fees for the utilisations of the aeroplanes,” Chinamasa said.