President Emmerson Mnangagwa hired a US$12,000-per hour jet to fly him to Scotland – fearing the indebted Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767 could get impounded over debts.
Mnangagwa landed at 9.30PM local time on Sunday after hiring a luxury jet reserved for VIPs in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic.
Mnangagwa’s delegation to 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, also referred to as COP26, numbers over 60 people, including members of his family. Some of the travelling party went ahead of his trip on the luxuriously-fitted jet which stopped in Cairo, Egypt, for a refuelling stop.
Without priority clearance, the 79-year-old Zimbabwean leader’s Airbus A319-115(CJ) was forced into multiple holding positions over Scotland while waiting to land.
Zanu PF supporters based in Scotland were preparing a welcome event for Mnangagwa. Videos posted online showed Zanu PF supporters buying expensive whiskeys from a supermarket, eliciting a tweet from Zimbabwe’s government spokesman Nick Mangwana, who wrote: “Tonight there is a massive welcome party held in honour of HE President Mnangagwa.
“Glasgow is the place to be as Zimbabweans from all corners of the UK attend this shindig and welcome their president. The party will sill over to the streets tomorrow.”
One of the men seen pushing a trolley laden with alcohol from a COSCO supermarket has been identified as Kudzai Makuku, a construction manager with Network Rail, a company that manages most of Britain’s rail network.
“We are ready, viva Zanu PF! Welcoming our president ED Mnangagwa in Scotland UK!” Makuku says on the video clip while pushing a trolley full of whiskies, including at least six Glenfiddich 12 bottles worth £40 each. They also carried other whiskies, cases of beers and cognacs.
Zanu PF sees Mnangagwa’s trip to the United Kingdom – the first by a Zimbabwean leader since Robert Mugabe’s state visit in 1994 – as a major political coup. Mnangagwa’s trip however has nothing to do with his perception by the British government – he is in Glasgow because of rules that permit him to attend United Nations meetings, overriding any concerns of the host state.
Mnangagwa is a pariah in the West, blamed by critics for economic mismanagement, corruption and authoritarian rule worse than his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who died in 2018 a year after he was deposed in a military coup.
Mnangagwa blames the West for ruining his country with sanctions, which he says are in retaliation for the Zanu PF government’s seizure of white-owned farms on behalf of landless blacks. Britain and the United States say their sanctions are targeted against individuals responsible for corruption and human rights abuses.
Mnagagwa tweeted last week that he was “eagerly looking forward” to the trip. His officials and state newspapers have falsely projected the trip as a diplomatic breakthrough.
The United Nations COP26 summit has been billed as a make-or-break chance to save the planet from the most calamitous effects of climate change.
Delayed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, COP26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – the limit scientists say would avoid its most destructive consequences.
“We need to come out of Glasgow saying with credibility that we have kept 1.5 alive,” Alok Sharma, COP26’s president, said on Sunday as delegates began arriving in the Scottish city.
“We’re already at global warming at 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he told Sky News television. “At 1.5 there are countries in the world that will be underwater, and that’s why we need to get an agreement here on how we tackle climate change over the next decade.”
Meeting the 1.5 C goal, agreed in Paris to much fanfare in 2015, will require a surge in political momentum and diplomatic heavy-lifting to make up for the insufficient action and empty pledges that have characterised much of global climate politics.
The conference needs to secure more ambitious pledges to further cut emissions, lock in billions in climate finance, and finish the rules to implement the Paris Agreement with the unanimous consent of the nearly 200 countries that signed it.
But there is huge work to be done.
At a summit in Rome, leaders of the Group of 20 major economies agreed on a final statement on Sunday that urges “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius but offers few concrete commitments.
The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for an estimated 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
A new pledge last week from China, the world’s biggest polluter, was labelled a missed opportunity that will cast a shadow over the two-week summit. Announcements from Russia and Saudi Arabia were also lacklustre.
The return of the United States, the world’s biggest economy, to U.N. climate talks will be a boon to the conference, after a four-year absence under President Donald Trump.
But like many world leaders, President Joe Biden will arrive at COP26 without firm legislation in place to deliver his own climate pledge as Congress wrangles over how to finance it and new uncertainty about whether U.S. agencies can even regulate greenhouse gas emissions. ZimLive