Tuesday, October 23, 2012

► ZIMBABWE: Boardroom chaos delays Air Zimbabwe's relaunch.

Air ZimbabweFollowing on from our previous post on the subject in September, Zimbabwean parastatal and national carrier, Air Zimbabwe (UM)'s plans to resume regional and international flights, have been scuppered due to "boardroom squabbles", reports the government mouthpiece, the ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation).

With two Airbus A320s confirmed to have joined the fleet, and Caribbean technicians training UM's engineer's up on the intricacies of the type, Air Zimbabwe should, at least in theory, have been ready to resume ops in the next few days:
Air Zimbabwe A320 Airbus
Air Zimbabwe's A320 in Harare
"The planes were delivered early this month and information gathered shows that engineers from Trinidad and Tobago are already working flat out equipping the local engineers with necessary information required for the maintenance of the aircrafts.

Contacted for comment on the prevailing situation, Air Zimbabwe CEO, Mr Innocent Mavhunga said everything is on course and that there will be a news conference to announce new developments.

No mention, as yet, was made on whether the ailing carrier has adhered to IATA's International  Operational Safety Audit deadline of 30 November or not, though in a radio interview, Mr. Mavhunga optimistically stated that he was confident the IATA requirements would be met by the end of October.

Long a drain on the Zimbabwean fiscus (since 1996 in fact), Air Zimbabwe has persistently been a thorn in the Government's side due to its constant indebtedness - its latest bill to government amounting to US$1.8million. There are, however, ministers in the Robert Mugabe's cabinet who believe a national airline does not necessarily need to be profitable and that its services rendered far outweigh any financial overheads incurred.

Said Minister for Tourism & Hospitality, Walter Mzembi, recently:
Minister for Tourism & Hospitality, Walter Mzembi
Walter Mzembi
Let me say of the 980 million arrivals recorded in global tourism in 2011, 51% arrived by air, which means a reliable national airliner cannot be discounted and, therefore, the government should play its part in subsidizing Air Zimbabwe,” the Tourism minister said.

Mzembi, who pledged to keep his “mouth shut” over the problems bedeviling the national carrier, however, said he was not happy with the wrangling on whether the government should bail the ailing national airline out or not.

There are other elements in the inclusive government who are complaining about expenditure towards Air Zimbabwe . . . $50 million to bail the national airliner out is nothing compared to the benefits it brings to tourism and the economy,” he said.

With sentiments like this, it is no wonder that Zimbabwean Minister of Transport, Nicholas Goche, had to recently concede that efforts at finding a technical partner for Air Zimbabwe had been undermined by its "financial problems and poor international reputation and image."

As November approaches, Zimbabwe has high hopes that FreshAir, the Zimbabwean/South African venture involving South African LCC 1Time (T6) will prove, in the long run, to be a viable, well run operation capable of replacing Air Zimbabwe, who may well find that, one day when they do eventually return to operation, that no one really cares anymore..