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Here is why medical helicopters are not yet flying

Zimbabwe has no pilots and technicians to fly the eighteen (18) medical emergency helicopters that were acquired from Russia in May 2023, it has emerged.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa received the helicopters from the Russian State Corporation (Rostec) at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on 19 May 2023.

The Herald the following day said that the country would have received at least 32 helicopters from Rostec under a public-private sector partnership agreement before the end of 2023.

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However, eight months down the line, the helicopters are still grounded because the country doesn’t have trained pilots and technicians to fly them.

Responding to one Peter Mupondi who had asked why the helicopters were not airlifting patients to hospitals from accident scenes during the festive season, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba, said:

How would you see them when you cannot see far, higher????? Helicopters are not bought together with PILOTS!!! Aya amunoti madhiraivha pamotokari, to bring the discussion to your level. Each copter needs a technician. Wazvinzwa here muzapu??? Madhiraivha ari kuVID as you tweet!

Charamba’s comments raise serious questions about how public procurement is done in Zimbabwe. ZimLive editor Mduduzi Matutu asked:

So you literally bought mapatapata (slippers) without the toes. A good planner first creates the conditions, not to buy things they can’t put to use. Whose tender was it anyway?

The procurement of the helicopters was lauded as a game changer in the provision of emergency air medical services, as well as air policing, and rescue missions in case of disasters.

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