As reported previously by The African Aviation Tribune, 1Time (T6) the South African LCC, has indeed been showing interest in starting services into Zimbabwe, albeit under the guise of a joint venture with a local Zimbabwean 'businessman'. SA Airlink too, is in on the action, trying to resurrect a long dead deal.
The Daily News in Zimbabwe reports that 1Time is interested in forming a joint venture with Zimbabwean businessman Matipedza Karase - current owner of "FreshAir Zimbabwe" - which will use 1Time aircraft, registered in Zimbabwe to operate domestic and regional flights. The Zimbabwean registration would then allow the airline to ply Zimbabwe's share of slots allocated it on the very lucrative South Africa-Zimbabwe air routes which, since the demise of Air Zimbabwe, have been left unused.
But it seems that all may not be quite as straightforward as it seems. Karase himself has had quite a few run ins with the law, most notably for fraud in 2010 and then again in 2011:
Source [ZimEye]"ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke was allegedly scammed out of US$17 000 by two Harare men who claimed they could help him register a planned airline venture with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).Matipedza Karase (27) appeared before a Harare magistrate on Wednesday facing three counts of fraud and was remanded out of custody on $500 bail.
His suspected accomplice, Forbes Zaranyika is still on the run."
A PROJECT fronted by Big Brother star Wendall Parson to fly thousands of school children to the Great Zimbabwe has been halted after the man organising the trips was revealed as a con artist....Now Wendall says he was duped by Matipedza Karase – the organiser of the so-called AvTour – into lending his support to the scheme which now threatens to spill into the courts.
At the same time, SA Airlink (4Z) is also keen on a similar venture, albeit with another businessman and Zanu PF Senator, Forbes Magadu, this time, under a venture to be called "Zim Airlink". The same principle will be applied, with Airlink providing planes and Magadu fulfilling the "Indigenous Zimbabwean" aspect; part of the Zimbabwean Indigenisation Act of 2010 that stipulates that any foreign-owned business with net assets of more than USD$500'000 must divest 51% of its shares to indigenous Zimbabweans within a five year period.
This isn't the first time Airlink and Magadu have attempted to form a viable Zimbabwean airline; their first go at it, Flywell Airlines, was meant to have taken to the air over 10 years ago, but due to political interference, never saw the light of day.
So, there you have it folks, two South African carriers allegedly eager on getting into the under served Zimbabwean market, but dealing with some fairly dubious characters. Make of the links what you will, but don't be too surprised if further down the line, an article detailing how 1Time or SA Airlink lost a hefty sum of money appears in a newspaper near you.
If it could happen to Fly540 (who were well placed to enter the Zimbabwean market but then got screwed at the last minute by its local partner), then it could very well happen to them..
*And thank you to Anthea for bringing the main article to our attention.