It’s been a full seven or so days since a plane carrying a consignment for the SA Reserve Bank was grounded in Harare, a dead body found on board.
As more details emerged things only became more mysterious, the U.S. pilot requesting emergency landing in Harare when Mozambique turned him down.
Some sources also spoke about suspicion that they tried to dump the dead body whilst in the air, that failed attempt leading to them landing in Zimbabwe’s capital.
Now the Sunday Times have picked up the story and confirmed that officials in Pretoria had to intervene with Zimbabwean authorities to negotiate the return of the money on board. How much – just the R20 billion:
Sources from Zimbabwe and South Africa confirmed that Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane talked directly to counterparts in Zimbabwe to release the plane, after Zimbabwean customs officials had demanded to inspect the cargo.
“We had to intervene at the highest level. They have agreed to release it, but were trying to score something out of us either through taxes or penalties,” a source said…
Under Zimbabwean law, South Africa was obliged to pay duties for cargo, which meant it had to be off-loaded and scanned. But South Africa had “curiously” resisted efforts to do so by customs officials.
“Even the paperwork was not in order,” said another source.
Zimbabwe also rejected offers by South Africa to send dozens of soldiers to guard the plane, further escalating tensions, sources said.
“It’s not as if we didn’t have adequate security. It was a pointless and condescending attitude.”
When you consider that R20 billion going missing wouldn’t reflect too well on the country you can understand why our officials wanted beefed up security.
After all, Grace Mugabe could make light work of that load on a few shopping trips to London and New York. More from the Sunday Times:
The postmortem report revealed that the suspected stowaway had probably died of suffocation four days earlier. His body was decomposing and there were no external or internal injuries or fractures.
Investigators have few other clues as to his identity. They say the man was likely aged between 25 and 35. A matchbox made in Indonesia was found on him.
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