Tsvangirai plane forced to land

A SOUTH Africa-registered plane carrying Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been forced to make an emergency landing after developing a technical fault.

The South African Airlink plane had just entered Zimbabwean airspace early Tuesday from Johannesburg when the pilot reported a technical fault.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s office said the plane diverted back to Johannesburg, touching down safely shortly after 8AM.

Tsvangirai – due to attend a cabinet meeting in Harare — caught a later plane.

The Prime Minister was returning from a five-day trip to Morocco and current African Union chair, Libya.

SA Airlink is privately owned and flies to 25 destinations in Southern African, including Harare and Bulawayo.

Formed in 1995, the airline has had two major incidents this year. On September 24, Airlink Flight 8911 crashed in the suburb of Merebank shortly after take-off from Durban International Airport, injuring its crew of three and one person on the ground. The captain, Allister Freeman, died as a result of complications from his injuries on October 7.

Just last week, Airlink Flight 8488 from Port Elizabeth Airport to East London Airport veered off the runway during take-off, but none of the passengers or crew were injured. The airline blamed the incident on "extremely bad weather conditions" and a "high velocity wind squall".

The arline uses a fleet of small planes including Jetstream 41 aircraft, ERJ 135 jet aircraft, BAe 146-200 aircraft and BAe 146-RJ85 aircraft.