Saturday, May 5, 2012

► ZIMBABWE: Air Zimbabwe resumes flights with 3 passengers as High Court blocks share sell off.

Air ZimbabweIt seems years of mismanagement, poor planning and lack of customer service have once again come back to haunt Zimbabwe's national carrier Air Zimbabwe (UM), as reports state that the airline carried just 3 passengers between Harare and Bulawayo on its first day back in the air, after an hiatus of nearly 3 months.
"State Enterprises Minister Gorden Moyo confirmed the flight, but said he was surprised the airline had resumed operations when the government is still looking for an investor to partner the company, saddled with a $140 million debt.

The airline’s Boeing 737-600(sic), with a capacity of 126 passengers, left Bulawayo with only three people on board. Air Zimbabwe is planning to have three flights a week between Harare, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo.

Moyo cautioned the move may backfire as the national airline does not yet have the capacity to embark on such operations due to lack of funds and a crippling debt. "

This is not the first time the airline has caused controversy by flying near empty aircraft. In 2005 Air Zimbabwe jet flew 6,000 km (3,728 miles) from Dubai with a solitary passenger aboard.

To add insult to injury, the High Court in Harare also blocked the attempted sale of Air Zimbabwe's shares in National Handling Services, pending determination of an Air Zimbabwe's workers’ application for the airline to be placed under judicial management, and thus, allow them to recover some USD$40 million still owed in back wages.

At present, Air Zimbabwe owes creditors over USD$100 million, resulting in the airline ceasing foreign operations following attempted seizures of Air Zimbabwe aircraft in both Johannesburg and London Gatwick.

"While an application to place Air Zimbabwe under judicial management over debts to the tune of $140 million was pending, the workers picked up information that there was Government communication directing the company’s group chief executive to transfer the shares to a Government nominee firm. 

That did not go down well with the workers who felt the move was meant to strip Air Zimbabwe of its assets and frustrate the pending court application. Air Zimbabwe owes the workers $35 million and other creditors over $100 million.

Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development Permanent Secretary Mr Patson Mbiriri wrote the letter on March 26 this year advising the firm to transfer the shares. Part of the letter read: “Pursuant to the Cabinet decision of Air Zimbabwe Holding Private Limited dated 28 February 2012, Air Zimbabwe Holdings should immediately transfer its shareholding in National Handling Services to a nominee company wholly owned by the Government, which nominee company will hold Government shares in NHS."
 Read More Here [The Herald]