The Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) has confirmed the loss of two pilots who died when the SF-260 trainer aircraft they were flying crashed near the central city of Gweru.
AFZ Commander Air Marshall Elson Moyo said flight instructor Squadron Leader Mkhululi Dube and trainee pilot Silungile Sweswe died on impact when the aircraft crashed into a compound in Somabhula, about 24 km south-west of Gweru, on 24 November.
The aircraft was on a routine training mission having taken off from Josiah Tungamirai Air Base, which is the national headquarters of the AFZ.
“It is with a heavy heart that I learnt of the aircraft accident which claimed the lives of our pilots. On behalf of AFZ, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased.
“This is also a moment to recognise the sacrifice and dedication of the deceased pilots. The AFZ will forever cherish their unwavering dedication to duty,” Moyo said.
An investigation is underway to establish the cause of the accident although preliminary assessments indicate possible technical failure.
Like all other arms of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the AFZ is faced with challenges that include obsolete aircraft that need urgent replacement and failure to maintain assets due to financial problems.
Addressing a parliamentary budget session two weeks ago, Defence and Veterans Minister Oppah Muchinguri said the ZDF cannot be expected to deliver national peace and stability on a shoe-string budget.
“Aged equipment, motor vehicles, aircraft, arms and ammunition has not been replaced for years. For example, we could not fly into flood-hit Chimanimani during Cyclone Idai in 2019 because our helicopters are too old and not user-friendly,” Muchinguri said.
In September 2014, the AFZ lost another SF-260 in a fatal crash during a routine training mission.