Zimbabwe state radio says the government of President Robert Mugabe has purchased six fighter jets. The radio called the aircraft "K-8" fighters, said to be a Chinese copy of the British Aerospace BAE “Hawk.” The British government suspended the sale of spare parts to Zimbabwe’s fleet of Hawks five years ago. The radio report did not mention the cost of the new planes, but a defense specialist quoted by the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper estimates they cost about 20 million dollars each.
Giles Mutsekwa is the shadow Minister of Defense for Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. He called the jet purchase “sad news,” given the poor economy and growing poverty. Mr. Mutsekwa told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that the government is “playing to the gallery” with its decision, suggesting one motive for the deal is to keep the military on its side. He said what the government should do – and what his party supports instead – is to improve the pay and standard of living for rank and file soldiers.