Air Zimbabwe is reportedly struggling to register two airbus planes it bought from France because of European Union sanctions imposed on the southern African country.
Details emerging from several Air Zimbabwe sources reveal that the planes were bought through China Sonangol, a Chinese controlled oil company based in Angola.Sonangol was reportedly roped in to circumvent the sanctions slapped on Zimbabwe in 2002.
Aviation sources said Eads, the French aircraft manufacturer was the supplier of the planes.
The sources said the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development entered into the deal with Sonangol.
Sonangol would then advance payment to Reliance Aerospace Solutions, an aviation consulting firm which would transfer the funds to Airbus.
In 2009, five deals worth US$8 billion were signed between the Zimbabwean government and Sonangol.
The deals were signed amid promises that they would help the country attract direct foreign investment into key sectors of the economy.Air Zimbabwe seems to have been one of the beneficiaries with the purchase of the Airbus planes to replenish an ageing fleet.
With the procurement of the planes in place, several pilots and staff have been sent to various European countries for training but registration of the planes is now a stumbling block.
In July and August a team of pilots and stewards was dispatched to Toulouse in France and Madrid in Spain for training on the new aircraft.
The new aircraft will service Air Zimbabwe's long-haul routes – mainly to China and the United Kingdom.
Air Zimbabwe sources said the latest team sent to France to iron-out the deal came back empty handed.
"The first delivery was expected before September 20.
"What I see as the biggest challenge is the issue of ownership of the planes because the management of Air Zimbabwe have no idea where the money to buy the planes is coming from," said the source.
As if to collaborate the details, last week Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga told a parliamentary committee that 16 pilots had been sent for a 45-day course in preparation for delivery of new equipment.
Mavhunga, however, failed to say when the government would bring the new equipment, prompting MPs to conclude that the government, which is the majority shareholder was the one running Air Zimbabwe and not management.
Mavhunga said the airline was saddled with a $137, 7 million debt, $112, 7 million of it being internal debt.
Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister Nicholas Goche recently announced that government will soon take over Air Zimbabwe's debts.