Foreign Policy Blogs

The Zimbabwe Government’s Bizarre Air Plane Crash Prank

I was going to let this pass, but after some thoughts I am left puzzled as to why a country teetering on the verge of economic collapse and political turmoil would – out of the blue – conduct this kind of publicity stunt. The only conclusion that I can come up is that this seems like a desperate move by the regime to show that it is in control, and can handle any emergency situation.

On Thursday, Zimbabweans, media and the world were caught up in the Zimbabwe’s aviation authority safety stunt. On that day a Boeing 767 suffered, while landing on a flight from London, an accident at the Harare airport, upon which the government mobilized all its national emergency response resources. Soldiers, paramilitary police, and security agents cordoned off the airport, and prowled the streets with submachine guns. Military helicopters hovered in the sky as smoke rose from the accident scene on the airport runway. Doctors, nurses and emergency medical personnel rushed to the scene and were told to expect the worst. Journalists converged in a press briefing room. All-news radio stations, TV channels, and social networks around the world picked up the story.

It turned out that there was no plane accident at all. The reported plane crash was a planned drill by Zimbabwe’s aviation authority to test the country’s national emergency response system.

Apparently, the drill was a success, but I disagree. On two very important aspects of the decision-making process – timing and judgment – this exercise was a failure of public policy. But more importantly, this exercise provides a window into the randomness and haphazard governing style of the Zimbabwe government.



Ndumba J. Kamwanyah

Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah, a native of Namibia in Southern Africa, is an independent consultant providing trusted advice and capacity building through training, research, and social impact analysis to customers around the world. Mos recently Ndumba returned from a consulting assignment in Liberia in support of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
In his recent previous life Ndumba taught (as an Adjunct Professor) traditional justice and indigenous African political institutions in sub-Saharan Africa at the Rhode Island College-Anthropology Department.

He is very passionate about democracy development and peace-building, and considers himself as a street researcher interested in the politics of everyday life.
Twitter: NdumbaKamwanyah