A United States cargo aircraft headed for South Africa was impounded by Zimbabwean authorities on Sunday after a dead body was found on the plane.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, David Chawota, told Studio 7 by phone that the plane belonging to Western Global Airlines registered in Florida, United States, was impounded when a dead body was found on the plane.
Chawota said the plane, that was carrying millions of South African rands belonging to South Africa’s Reserve Bank, had stopped at Harare International Airport for refueling when blood was found dripping from the plane by ground handling staff at the airport.
South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela, confirmed to Studio 7 by phone that the cargo that was in the U.S plane was ordered from Germany and belonged to the South African government. He said two South African nationals are part of the six people that are being questioned by Zimbabwean authorities.
Pradeep Maharaj, the currency cluster group executive of the Reserve Bank of South Africa also issued a statement late this afternoon saying that his bank suspects that the dead body found on the plane carrying the bank’s cargo was a “stowaway passenger”.
Maharaj said his bank was making frantic efforts to ensure that its cargo was released and transported to South Africa immediately.
The police officer investigating the case, Crispen Makedenge, said he was busy working on the matter and referred all questions to police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba. At the time of going to air, Charamba said she did not have a full brief of the investigations so far.
However, some aviation sources told Studio 7 that the plane’s captain initially made a request to refuel the aircraft in Maputo but his request was turned down by Mozambican authorities.
The sources said the plane was then allowed to make a stopover at Harare airport when it was later impounded.
Meanwhile, Mavimbela told Studio 7 that the plane’s crew was not arrested but helping police with investigations. He added that the two South Africans who were on the crew were employees of the Reserve Bank of South Africa. Police sources others were two Americans and two Pakistanis.
At the time of going to air, foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi had summoned the ambassadors of South Africa, USA, Pakistani and Germany for an emergency meeting over the issue. Mumbengegwi said he was in a meeting when contacted for comment.
In 2004, Zimbabwean authorities intercepted 64 mercenaries at Harare Airport enroute to Equtorial Guinea where they intended to stage a coup against that country’s president Theodoro Obainga Nguema Mbasogo.
In another story, three men have been arraigned before a Harare magistrate for stealing a phone belong to President Robert Mugabe’s son, Bellarmine Chatunga Mugabe. The trio was ordered to pay $100 bail by magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe.