By- Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has flown to Togo on a private jet linked to Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar controls the eastern and some southern parts of Lybia.
Haftar was a former senior military commander under Muammar Gaddafi before defecting to the United States where he sought asylum.
It remains unclear what link Chiwenga, a former army general, has with Haftar if any.
The San Marino-registered Gulfstream G450 (T7-LJA) flew into Harare from Dubai on August 22, according to flight data from FlightRadar24.
Chiwenga, who doubles up as health minister, was onboard when it took off to the Togolese capital Lome for a United Nations health summit for African countries a day later.
Why is this important?
The 14-seater aircraft costs around US$20 000 per flying hour, although the terms of Chiwenga’s charter for the five-hour, one-way trip to Lome are unknown.
The Zimbabwe government refuses to say how the private jets are hired.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa previously claimed his travel was financed by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Since ascending to power in 2017, Mnangagwa, 79, has regularly used Dubai-registered private jets for most of his foreign and domestic trips – including summoning an Airbus A318-112 (CJ) Elite from Dubai to fly him the 275km trip to Gweru from Harare in July 2019.
At what cost?
Responding to a ZimLive story in 2019, Mnangagwa insisted that “we do not pay anything for that plane.”
He claimed that during a meeting with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed, “I told him we had a problem with availability of planes and he said whenever I want to travel, all I need to do is call.”
As he publicly claims, the Zimbabwe leader’s willingness to accept gifts from foreign governments has raised fears he is involved in some opaque transactions benefitting his benefactors.
Critics claim that the Dubai-registered jets flying into Harare will deliver scarce United States dollars to the regime and then smuggle gold out.
In 2016, the UAE reported gold imports from Africa topping US$16 billion. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) noted that the UAE, which is not a gold producer, ranked 3rd globally in terms of gold exports, with a total value of US$25.4 billion, or 7.8 per cent of total world exports.