As the rest of Kenyans struggled to put food on the table due to the adverse effects of Covid-19 on the economy in 2020, it has emerged that the political class imported over 300 helicopters in preparations for the 2022 polls.
Data from the South African Tax Authority shows that a total of 325 helicopters were imported from South Africa in the year that saw many Kenyans lose jobs due to economic shutdowns. The number is an increase from 212 choppers brought into the country in 2005, two years to the 2007 polls.
The ‘birds’ are valued at Ksh3.6 billion in the current exchange rate.
There is no doubt that most, if not all, the choppers were imported for businesses related to this year’s August General Election.
Helicopters are synonymous with general elections with politicians relying on them to traverse the country to reach as many people as possible in a limited time.
Besides offering convenient means of transport due to speed, the use of copters among the political elite is a symbol of opulence.
Unlike before when hiring of the aircraft was for a few individuals, nowadays MPs, Senators and Governors are hiring choppers to keep up with their rivals.
The number of aircraft imported into the country could be higher since some politicians and businessmen imported the copters from other parts of the world including Europe, Asia and the United States.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), confirmed to the Standard, that most of the choppers in Kenya are imported from South Africa.
“It is just like a car. If you want a Mercedes Benz S500, you will not go looking for it in Kitui, for example. You will come to Nairobi because that is where you are likely to get it. It’s the same with choppers because most owners are from those rich countries like Nigeria and South Africa.”
Some of the politicians prefer buying the choppers while others are comfortable with hiring the services for a limited period.
Currently, the cost of hiring a chopper ranges from Ksh130,000) to Ksh174,000 per hour, depending on the company.
The prices go up depending on the number of seats and the demand. During the electioneering period, the prices could rise.
Some of the politicians and businessmen who own choppers in Kenya include President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, Senators Gideon Moi (Baringo), Ephraim Maina (Laikipia) and Narendra Raval.