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‘Strange’ plane at KIA raises eyebrows

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A jet that landed at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) on Friday has raised eyebrows with some suggesting that government is planning to buy the plane for President Peter Mutharika.

But government has dismissed the fears, arguing that it and the President himself are far from being interested in investing in a presidential jet at the moment.

Malawi News has information that the November 650 Golf Alpha belonging to a company known as Golf Stream, landed at KIA from Kigali.

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It took off soon afterwards with government officials such as Chimwemwe Chipungu who is in Safe Motherhood department and Chris Kandulu of Ministry of Foreign Affairs on board.

The move is feared to suggest that government is planning to purchase or be hiring the plane for the President.

Also on board was the President’s step son Tadikira Maseko.

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When asked about the plane, Maseko admitted that the plane did land at KIA and that he was one of those that boarded it.

But he said he was not aware of any plans by the government to buy or be hiring it for the President.

A well-placed source in the presidency said owners of the plane had initially contacted the government about the plane for sale but they were “categorically told that we have no plans to buy the plane.”

“The President made his position clear that we have no plans to that effect. They [the owners of the plane] have been going around countries in the region with their product in a marketing drive. It came to Lilongwe from Kigali and then proceeded to South Africa. But we are not interested in it,” said the source.

He added that suggestions of the government planning to buy the jet would have been closer to truth had Malawi Defence Force (MDF) been involved at any point regarding the flight.

“But they were not, so there is no issue,” he said.

Asked why some government officials got involved, he said that was out of their own “childish excitement”.

“We are told that the owners of plane contacted those officials thinking they would influence government decision. But that’s a non-starter as far as we are concerned,” he said.

When contacted, Chief Secretary to the government, George Mkondiwa also said government does not have it in its books to buy a plane for the President.

“That’s not our issue. There are pressing matters this government wants to spend money on and buying a presidential jet is not one of them,” Mkondiwa said.

The issue of a presidential jet has been a sore subject in the country since former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s time.

The late Mutharika was criticised by donors and civil society organisations in the country for spending about K3 billion to purchase a plane.

He insisted it was a necessary investment and that government had used locally generated resources to purchase the aircraft.

When she took over power in 2012, former president Joyce Banda sold it off to a South African company in a deal that turned controversial as it emerged that apart from that Malawi had not received any money from the said sale. It was also learnt that Banda was hiring the same plane on some of her foreign trips.

President Peter Mutharika has said before that it was inconvenient and time consuming for him to travel on commercial flights.

But he has also indicated there are no plans yet by his government to purchase a presidential jet considering the economic situation in the country.

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