ATTEMPTS by government to register a plane belonging to convicted mercenary Simon Mann arrested in Harare in 2004 with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have failed after aviation authorities could not prove they had legally acquired the plane.
By Hazel Ndebele
Mann’s plane was impounded in March 2004 after landing at the Harare International Airport with 70 mercenaries enroute to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where they wanted to stage a military coup against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. The mercenaries intended to pick up weapons in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean government, however, arrested Mann and his 69 colleagues before impounding the Boeing 727 aeroplane valued between US$3 million and US$5 million. The plane has been parked at the airport since 2004.
Sources close to the developments said government has failed to produce the requirements needed by IATA in the registration of the plane since 2005.
Amongst others requirements, IATA requires proof of ownership for registration of an aeroplane.
“Because the forfeiture of the plane was unlawful AITA has refused to register it, moreover government or the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) could not justify ownership of the plane,” said the source.
Government, the source says, intends to fly the plane to Equatorial Guinea but is being hindered by the failure to get a licence.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that Mann initially wanted to sell the plane to Zimbabwe, but the government failed to raise the required funds.
Prior to his arrest, Mann had lawfully bought firearms from the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (Pvt) Ltd (ZDI), hence the landing in Zimbabwe. He has not yet been refunded for the firearms which he did not receive. Furthermore, government is still in possession of the US$180 000 found inside the plane. ZDI reportedly sold the mercenaries a consignment of AK-47 assault rifles, mortars and 30 000 rounds of ammunition for US$188 000.
The mercenaries were charged and found guilty of violating the country’s immigration, firearms and security laws.
In his 2011 book, Cry Havoc, Mann confirms that the intention of their journey was “to remove one of the most brutal dictators in Africa in a privately organised coup d’etat.”
As reported by this paper then the Zimbabwean state security services laid a trap for the arrest of the mercenaries. It was said that then ZDI general manager retired Colonel Tshinga Dube was aware of the trap.
Sources say Mann wants to appeal as he feels the order for forfeiture was not justifiable.