Donated helicopters find their way into Zimbabwe?
By Tichaona Sibanda
Namibia could have controversially used a ‘perfect cover’ to send helicopters to Zimbabwe, for rescue operations to save flood victims in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin, following the heavy rains in the last few weeks.
The Alouette III helicopters are the same aircraft the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) wanted to donate to Zimbabwe last year.
But an urgent court order obtained by AfriForum in 2013 prevented the donation to Zimbabwe over fears that President Robert Mugabe’s regime would use the aircraft against its own people.
Earlier this month South Africa announced it would donate the 12 Alouette helicopters to Namibia. Following these reports AfriForum said they would monitor the donation to Namibia to ensure that it does not end up benefiting the Mugabe regime.
But following floods in the country, the Namibia Defence Force (NDF), sent three of its helicopters to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, after appeals from Zimbabwe to assist with airlifting marooned families affected by flooding at Tokwe-Mukosi in Masvingo.
NDF public relations officer Petrus Shilumbu said: “The heavy rainfall experienced in the Republic of Zimbabwe have prompted the Government of Zimbabwe to request assistance from the Republic of Namibia.” Shilumbu said in response to that request the Namibian airforce sent three of its helicopters, with six pilots and seven technicians.
However Namibia’s generosity has raised eyebrows, taking into account that it is sending to Zimbabwe the same type of helicopters that were blocked from being donated to the airforce of Zimbabwe.
AfriForum legal advisor, Willie Spies, said while they do not object to Namibia offering help to Zimbabwe, they will not hesitate to approach the South African courts again if they discover that the rescue mission has been used to sidestep legal issues concerning the helicopters.
Solomon Chikohwero, a former airforce officer in Zimbabwe and director of Intelligence for the MDC-T, said the ‘help’ from Namibia was part of a grand plan to deliver the helicopters from South Africa via Namibia.
‘If Zimbabwe really needed help airlifting marooned villagers, they would have simply asked Zambia or South Africa, that are an hour away from the flood victims by air. To seek help from a country that is half a day away using helicopters raises eyebrows. South Africa has helicopters permanently stationed at Limpopo and Messina for rescue operations and it would have made sense asking help from them,’ Chikohwero said.
He said he felt certain the helicopters would not be going back to Namibia.
‘They will use every trick or excuse for the helicopters to remain in Zimbabwe. Either they will say they have developed mechanical failures or will leave them in the country until the floods are over,’ he added. SW Radio Africa