By Tichatonga Nzekete
April 25, 1973: Rhodesia Prime Minister Ian Smith left the International Community in Shock as he masterminded the purchase of three (out of the only 65 that were manufactured Globally) Boeing 720 Aircrafts and becoming the first African Government to take charge of the new model.
The delivery (dubbed “triplets reception”) was celebrated at Jameson Hotel where Smith took the opportunity to remind the International Community (that had placed Rhodesia under 8 years of sanctions), “You can not bring us down, Rhodesia is far too strong to be destroyed by the enermy!”
What is interesting to note is that Rhodesia was the first Sub Saharan Country to establish a Satellite, Television station and Radio Station.
Zimbabwe had the best railway infrastructure in the entire Southern Africa. Now it was again on the verge of becoming Africa’s leading airline by acquiring the then top of the range Boeing 720 aircraft, buying three of them by cash since they were not allowed to borrow outside Zimbabwe and yet on one hand it was fighting United Nations sanctions and on the other hand it was fighting Zanla and Zipra forces.
In his own words, Smith said “sanctions made us more determined, they made us more focussed, cost-efficient and innovative. We managed to see what the World did not see.”
To by-pass the international isolation and sanction regime (that were begged by Mugabe, Nkomo, Zvobgo and their guerrilas), the Rhodesian Government purchased nine aircrafts between 1973 and 1976 via eleven middlemen and facilitators!
Each aircraft ended up costing way in excess of 1 600 000 Rhodesian dollars.
General Tongogara told us “We learnt a lot of our tactics from Smith and even administratively he is a master-tactician.”
How did we end up with nothing as a country? What happened from the “learn from your enermy moto” that General Tongogara was talking about?
Today, we don’t even have a single operating aircraft as everything collapsed to the ground and we continue to beg Americans to be out friends!
- Editor’s note: In 1980, Air Zimbabwe had a fleet of 18 planes, but 40 years later, they are two, according to its website.