JOHANNESBURG – Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s charter aircraft is a specialised hospital in the sky, ZimLive can reveal.
Chiwenga, who is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed ailment in India, is flying in a Boeing 737-700 owned by Royal Jets of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The plane has a specialist medical team onboard, and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
On their website, Royal Jets say their “Medevac service” is available to any individual, corporate or government entity “that has a patient in need of immediate transfer to any regional or international destination.”
“Our medical flight team includes experts in the fields of cardiology, paediatrics, neo-natal and intensive care, and is supported by the most advanced medical technology,” they add.
Their customisable Boeing 737, which can take up to three ICU patients, is “capable of reaching even the most distant destinations.”
The aircraft, with a luxurious interior, can carry 30 other people accompanying a patient. Royal Jets promise “complete privacy and discretion”.
A round trip to India from Zimbabwe on the plane, according to aviation experts, set Zimbabwe back almost US$500,000.
The government said Chiwenga was being treated for a “minor abdominal ailment” after he was airlifted to New Dehli, the Indian capital, on February 7.
Days earlier, Chiwenga had undergone esophageal manometry tests used to measure the strength and muscle coordination of one’s esophagus when they swallow, in a South African hospital. He had complained to doctors that his throat was dry, and had difficulties eating.
Doctors determined that he had non-cancerous motility problems, and advised him to see an esophageal surgeon, which prompted the trip to India, ZimLive was told.
Chiwenga, whose entourage includes his wife Mary and the Deputy Minister of Health John Mangwiro, was due to leave India on Friday but take-off was abandoned. According to local media, his plane developed a technical fault.
The decision to charter Chiwenga a private jet will once again draw new criticism for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, which is known for its profligacy.
Early this month, dozens of Zimbabweans demonstrated outside a Cape Town hospital demanding that Chiwenga be sent home to be treated in local hospitals, where Zimbabweans daily endure drugs shortages, obsolete equipment and a lack of doctors.-zimlive