HARARE- Troubled Air Zimbabwe will not resume its suspended regional and international flights until Government takes over the over US$140 million debt and restructures the national airline, an official has said.
The airline suspended the flights after some of its planes were impounded by debtors over long standing debts in South Africa and in Britain. Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Mr Innocent Mavhunga said the flights would only resume when there was no risk of the planes being impounded.
“Those flights will remain suspended until maybe the end of January while some logistics are being worked out. We are hoping that Government would have implemented Cabinet decisions on Airzim like the debt take-over and restructuring.
“If the decisions are not implemented then certainly we won’t be resuming those flights.” Mr Mavhunga said the national airline was only plying the domestic routes and Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The national airline has failed to service its debts due to operational challenges mainly caused by a high staff turnover. Airzim has over 1 200 employees but management wants the numbers trimmed down to just over 400.
Lack of finance has made it difficult for the national airline to retrench because it does not have the package for potential retrenchees.
Air Zimbabwe was is in the headlines again this week after the only plane still operational was grounded, due to technical faults. Flights from Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls were cancelled on Monday when the Boeing 737 aircraft developed a “glitch” in one of the engines, leaving passengers stranded.
Political and economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga told SW Radio Africa that blame for the airline’s demise “should be placed squarely on Robert Mugabe and the board of directors”. He referred to Mugabe’s constant use of the airline for personal trips and mismanagement by the board as the major reasons.
“We’ve reached a point where there should be either civil action or criminal liability against the management for their part in terms of how we got to this position,” Mhlanga explained. He added that the board never had a plan of action and should have forced privatization of the airline years ago.
A crisis developed a week before the holidays last month when creditors seized a plane at Gatwick Airport in London because Air Zim had failed to pay $1.5 million owed to an American spare parts company. Hundreds were stranded for over a week at the airport.
Earlier in the week Transport Minister Nicholas Goche ordered all its regional and international flights to be suspended, fearing seizure of the remaining aircraft by creditors.