The Russian government said yesterday that it has cancelled a contract for the supply of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 presidential VIP plane to Zambia, despite government paying down payment for the purchase, due to the country’s failure to finance the deal.
In September 2018, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov, disclosed that Russia and Zambia had signed an agreement for the sale of one VIP-configured SSJ 100/95 and added that the two country’s were in talks over the acquisition of four more.
“A contract was signed with Zambia for the supply of one VIP-version aircraft. In the near future, an advance payment is expected, and an option to buy four Superjet 100 passenger aircraft is being discussed,” said Manturov.
When News Diggers! asked Zambia’s minister of Transport and Communication Dr Brian Mushimba to explain why government was buying another VIP plane for the Head of State, he denied having any knowledge of the transaction, describing the announcement as fake news.
“I think it’s fake. I have no clue what that story is talking about… I can’t talk about the President buying a plane for himself or not, that is not in my domain. But Zambia or a Zambian company has not bought planes to start flying in Zambia,” said Mushimba.
However, it emerged that the five planes were being procured under the Ministry of Defence, and the VIP version was meant for the President.
Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary Stardy Mwale then confirmed that government was buying planes through the Zambia Air Force, explaining that some of the planes would be used for commercial purposes under the revived Zambia Airways, which actually falls under the Ministry of Transport.
He confirmed that one of the planes would be used to maintain airspace and monitor poaching, one for VIP use, while the other three would be for commercial purposes.
“This procurement of aircraft and associated air assets is a lengthy process and still on going due to the time it takes to select appropriate aircraft and equipment. Whenever budgetary allocations have been available, and procurement guidelines completed, we have, as an on-going process, purchased the required air and ground defence assets to respond to the defence and security needs of the country,” said Mwale in October, 2018.
The Russian aircraft manufacturer later explained that it would only supply one VIP Sukhoi Superjet for the Head of State, after a revised deal was arrived at.
Company’s vice-president Yevgeny Andrachnikov explained that the said VIP jet would cost about US$50 million.
“The contract was signed, and in 2019 Sukhoi Business Jet in the VIP version will be delivered to the President of Zambia,” Andrachnikov told the Russian Business Aviation Exhibition forum in his presentation. “This airliner costs $45-49 million. It is much more expensive than the passenger SSJ-100, which costs about $30 million.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit, however, the Russian Minister of Trade revealed that Zambia had indicated a lack of capacity to finance the deal.
“The contract for the supply of a SSJ 100 aircraft in the VIP version to Zambia has been suspended because the country does not have enough funds to finance the contract,” Manturov told TASS as part of the Russia-Africa Forum.
“We take into account the experience of working with the Mexican market, where we delivered more than 20 aircraft. In addition to changes in the economy of the region, which affected the operation of the delivered aircraft, some maintenance issues were not completely resolved, there were certain malfunctions in this part. In Africa, for example, we signed a contract for the supply of a VIP version of the SSJ 100 to Zambia. But in Zambia, besides the advance payment, there were no funds to finance this aircraft, so the contract has been frozen,” Manturov told tass.com.
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Defence has told News Diggers! that the whole Russian aircraft procurement deal was worth US$198 million.
“The whole deal is US$198 million. There were a lot of things contained in the contract. That money does not include the Gulfstream which was bought recently for the President. Gulfstream was bought from the American company Gulfstream itself, and the Israelis provided financing and the military installations. This one which was expected from Russia is a different presidential plane, it’s a VIP prototype from the normal passenger plane,” the source explained.
“So all these planes were being bought through ZAF under this Ministry, that is why when you asked Mushimba he had no clue, but if you remember the PS for Defence made a statement saying that three of the planes would be used for commercial purposes under Zambia Airways, but the minister in charge for the national airline was not aware…(laughs).