Informed sources who were at the Harare International Airport told Radio VOP that an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200 aircraft which was about to ferry Mugabe to Ethiopia developed a faulty auxiliary power unit (APU) which pumped smoke into the cabin where some flight crew including pilots, air hostesses and engineers had already settled and waiting for Mugabe to board the plane.
The smoke forced the flight crew and some of delegates accompanying Mugabe to the summit to flee from the plane.
The incident happened just before lunch time when officials were waiting for Mugabe to arrive at the airport for the departure to Ethiopia.
Engineers who attended to the aircraft switched off the APU to avoid the blowing of smoke into the cabin and declared the plane fit to fly and Mugabe then departed for Addis Ababa around 2PM.
Sources said after the embarrassing incident Air Zimbabwe was forced to run a test flight of the plane for 25 minutes before Mugabe boarded it to assure his aides that the aircraft is safe for flying.
However, some members of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation reportedly interrogated Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga over the embarrassing incident as they suspected that the airline’s striking workers could have sabotaged the plane so as to communicate a message to Mugabe.
Last month, Mugabe became the latest victim of the chaos at Air Zimbabwe after he was forced to hire a private plane to ferry him to the Far East for his annual vacation after Air Zimbabwe failed to provide the service.
The diamond firm intervened to rescue Mugabe after failing to secure the services of Air Zimbabwe, whose long haul aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 was holed up in London after developing a technical fault.
The wide-bodied aircraft, which services Air Zimbabwe’s international routes and which Mugabe usually charters for his local, regional and international jaunts developed a technical fault after being impounded at Gatwick International Airport by American General Supplies over a US$1.2 million debt.