'Mugabes don't have anything to do with Zimbabwe Airways deal,' says son-in-law
Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore, whose name has been at the centre of a raging debate over a Zimbabwe Airways deal, has reportedly said that he "is only doing a service to his country and is not on a self-enrichment exercise".
According to The Standard newspaper, Chikore, who is married to Mugabe's daughter Bona, has been at the forefront of setting up Zimbabwe Airways, an airline the government claims was being established to complement the struggling Air Zimbabwe.
Early this month, Bona was at Harare's international airport, to see the arrival of a newly-acquired passenger plane bearing her father's initials.
The Boeing 777, with the registration code Z-RGM, made a low fly past over Harare’s main Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport before it touched down from Malaysia.
Pictures from the runway showed Bona with her husband, who was aboard the plane and dressed in a pilot's uniform. It was unclear if Chikore, a trained airline pilot, had been at the controls.
Chikore was chief operating officer at the debt-ridden Air Zimbabwe at the time a deal was reportedly sealed last year with Malaysia Airlines to purchase pre-used planes. He no longer holds that post.
'They are not my planes'
Following the arrival of the Boeing 777, reports indicated that Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had been at pains trying to explain the rationale behind the setting-up of the airline amid speculation it was a Mugabe family venture.
But according to The Standard, Chikore maintained that Mugabe was not involved in the setting-up of the airline and that he himself was only providing technical expertise.
"When you talk about me, I am a professional and I am not going to go around trying to defend myself, people will know the truth and people are smart enough.
"If people are interested they can go to the registrar of companies to see who owns the company, they’ll see the CR40, they’ll see the CR6, they will see the stakeholder, and my name is not there.
"The company itself belongs to the government of Zimbabwe, the proof is there and it’s public knowledge.
"I don't have to go loud and say they are not my planes. In fact, where would I get that kind of money to buy the aircraft?," Chikore was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the report also said that aviation experts continued to ask questions about the government's deal to buy two planes that had been grounded for some time in Malaysia.
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