Govt, Russia on verge of aircraft, telecoms deals

Augustine Mukaro


GOVERNMENT is soon expected to  seal two deals with Russian investors that could see the country acquiring five commercial planes and securing a telecommunications technical partner, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week. 

So

urces privy to the developments said government was expected to seal a US$500 million deal for the supply of five Illyushin and Tupolev commercial planes  and a US$300 million telecommunications technical partner arrangement.

The telecommunications deal involves Net*One and Tel*One partnering Russia’s State Foreign Trade Company, Tyazhpromexport, in two weeks’ time.

Sources said a Zimbabwe delegation led by Transport and Communication permanent secretary George Mlilo was expected to travel to Russia next week where they would meet officials from  Voronezh Aircraft Construction Company (Vaco), to conclude the deal.

The aircraft supply and telecommunications deals were brokered by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Transport minister Chris Mushohwe during a visit to Russia about two months ago.

Air Zimbabwe officials confirmed the airline was talking to “a Russian supplier” as part of a wider search for a possible source of new aircraft.

“Yes, we do need new equipment for our operations. For aircrafts, we are exploring various possible suppliers and there has been contact with a Russian supplier,” the official said.

Sources said the deal was as good as sealed, saying the delivery of the Russian planes was expected to start in 2008.

But the sources said pilots and engineers were unhappy with the Russian planes because of what they say is a high record of accidents of airplanes made from the east European country.

Initially, Tyazhpromexport had turned down government’s proposal to get into partnership with the unbundled parastatal citing its huge indebtedness.

Instead the Russians had proposed the setting up of a parallel company in which the two companies would be shareholders.

Zimbabwe has adopted a “Look East” policy over the past few years in response to what government views as sabotage by Western countries opposed to its widely-condemned land reform.

As part of the “Look East” policy, government has entered into at least 15 deals worth trillions of dollars with Chinese, Iranian and other Asian companies.

Most of the deals revolve around fuel supplies, mining, electricity and communications.

Last year, government acquired two MA60 planes from China and received a third one for free.

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