Zimbabwe’s ailing state run airline, Air Zimbabwe’s woes worsened on Monday after one of its planes was impounded in London by a United States company.
Informed sources told Radio VOP that Air Zimbabwe’s long haul aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 known as Victoria Falls, was seized by American General Supplies upon landing at London’s Gatwick International Airport on Monday morning from Harare International Airport.American General Suppliers secured a court injunction in the US that gave them the power to impound the aircraft over US$ 1, 2 million debts, according to a source on Monday.
“The AGS has impounded our Boeing 767 flight to London over unpaid debts. The plane was supposed to leave Harare on Sunday morning but it only left around 5PM because of the problems. Unfortunately it was then impounded and this is going to affect the workers who have not been paid over the past six months,” a senior staff member who requested anonymity told Radio VOP.
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga, could not give a comment over the issue saying he was attending to meetings.
“I can’t give you a comment at the moment because I am in meetings. You can try to get in touch with me after three hours,” said Mavhunga before switching off his mobile phone.
However, Air Zimbabwe board chairman Jonathan Kadzura confirmed that indeed the plane had been impounded due to non-payment of debts but blamed the situation on the Ministry of Finance and inclusive government.
“From our part we are very clear that this issue is political and we are hoping that the Finance Minister Tendai Biti will be able to see what we mean when we say he should support the parastatal. Surely the government has the capacity to pay the outstanding US$1,2 million debt,” said Kadzura.
“They (American General Supplies want their debt settled in full plus costs. We can see more attachments (of aircraft) coming,” said other sources, who asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the airline.
The impounding of the aircraft follows the seizure of one of Air Zimbabwe’s plane, a Boeing 737-500 which was confiscated by South Africa’s Bid Air Services two weeks ago over a $500 000 debt for ground handling services.
Another international company, ASECNA has already secured a court ruling in France over which it could impound Air Zimbabwe's airplanes due to an overdue debt, while British Airport Transport and American General Supplies, a major supplier of aircraft spares to Air Zimbabwe, had warned that they could suspend services due to accumulating arrears.
Once rated as one of the best airlines in Africa, Air Zimbabwe has been run down due to successive years of mismanagement and inadequate funding.