The Republic of China, through its Department of African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), has taken delivery of two Chinese manufactured aircrafts, the Xi’an MA600.
Malawi Defence Force (MDF) received two aircrafts which were procured from China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).
The handover and takeover ceremony took place at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre on Saturday.
Wu Peng, Director-General, Department of African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China, had announced in February that two planes were headed to Malawi.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Erica Maganga, said the procurement of the two planes confirms the government’s commitment to modernise the Malawi Air Force.
It is expected that the aircrafts will be used to transport the president and other dignitaries as well as to transport their troops for peacekeeping missions in different regions of conflict.
MDF Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Paul Valentino Phiri said civilians will also be carried in the aircrafts when the need arises. He did not specify whether Malawi bought the planes, which cost around $20 million each.
The announcement about the two aircrafts in February by Wu Peng led to questions as Malawians want know what Malawi will give China in exchange, amid fears the deal could trap them in more debt “like what happened in Zambia”.
“What did we pledge in exchange for these?” asked a Twitter user in reply to Wu.
Another said: “Exported? Who ordered those? And since when does the rest of world fly on Chinese made planes? Hopefully it’s not a manipulative move to soften the Tonse led govt like Dpp to push the Chinese agenda! We need Boeing here not unsafe toys!!”
Malawi and China established diplomatic ties in 2008 after the Southern African country dumped Taiwan.
Since then, the Chinese Government has assisted in the construction of the Malawi Parliament building, Bingu National Stadium, Karonga-Chitipa Road in the northern region, the Bingu Conference Center and Hotel, Malawi University of Science and Technology and Presidential Villas.
Recently, China has assisted Malawi with COVID-19 related medical assistance, construction of five community technical colleges and new medical equipment for Mzuzu Central Hospital.
China is also supporting construction of a dual-carriage from Mchinji round-about to Kanengo junction. – Wires