AirZim rot sparks Mugabe concerns

HARARE - The deepening rot at struggling flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe, is said to have triggered serious safety concerns among security chiefs and brawling Zanu PF bigwigs — who are worried about the safety and security of the hired planes that President Robert Mugabe now regularly uses for his official travels.

This comes as the debt-ridden national airline is barely managing to stay afloat, and to keep operating its creaky aircraft — a development which has lately forced, Mugabe, its single biggest customer, to hire private jets from overseas.

It also comes as Air Zimbabwe has been banned from flying into Europe over safety concerns — further complicating Mugabe’s frequent travel plans to international destinations which are not covered by the current travel restrictions on him.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that security chiefs were becoming increasingly concerned with Air Zimbabwe’s worsening problems — which they feared could see the airline’s long-range planes remaining grounded, and necessitating the continued leasing of allegedly “risky” overseas planes for the nonagenarian’s use.

Brawling Zanu PF factions were similarly said to be rattled by the rot at Air Zim, with party insiders saying both Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste kingpins were concerned that Mugabe was being "exposed to either harm or intelligence stings" by travelling on hired private jets.

The former liberation movement is currently being devoured by its deadly tribal, factional and succession wars which have seen the ruling party splitting into two distinct camps — with the G40 camp fiercely opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa  succeeding Mugabe.

“Many chefs are worried that there seems to be no real appetite to fix the problems at Air Zimbabwe, yet the president is dependent on its planes for his travels.

"It is in that light that people are worried by the growing reliance on foreign private planes which the president is now using, because all the crew in such cases is also foreign.

“Even if planes and crews were vetted, one can’t still tell what a person is thinking, especially with the acts of terror and espionage that we witness today. Foreign crew has no allegiance or loyalty to us, so this is a huge problem," one of the sources told the Daily News yesterday.

But Transport minister Joram Gumbo said there should be no worries over Mugabe’s use of private planes, as his ministry was sure that the jets were hired from credible people.

“As far as we are concerned they (private planes) are fine ... when we look for the planes, we know there is a potential danger and we make the necessary assessments to ensure that the ones we use are fine,” Gumbo said.

He added that government was working on a plan to change the fortunes of the cash-strapped national airline, although he also conceded that this would be a herculean task.

“It is not an easy thing to turn around the airline. I tasked the board with putting a turnaround programme together and they now have a strategic 2017 to 2020 plan.

“Beginning this month, government assumed the Air Zimbabwe debt to make it attractive to investors. What is now left is the implementation of the plan, and we have approached different airlines in this regard.

"But until we resolve that we will continue to work as we are doing now. Everything is on course, but it is not any easy thing,” Gumbo told the Daily News.

The badly mismanaged Air Zimbabwe has been battling myriad problems over the years, including failing to service its ginormous debt.

The flag carrier is also said to be losing up to $3 million a month, in addition to being saddled with a $300 million declared debt.

The extent of the rot devouring Air Zimbabwe was first exposed to the public in March when it was revealed that Mugabe was resorting to hiring private jets for his overseas travels, after it emerged that the poorly-performing national carrier had failed to service its planes.

As a result, Mugabe had to lease a private jet from Bahrain, which he used to travel to Singapore and Ghana then.

Mugabe used the same plane during his trip to Singapore last week and on his latest trip to Mexico where he is attending a climate conference.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said yesterday that the problems at Air Zimbabwe were "beyond" the Zanu PF government's capabilities.

“The spectacular collapse of Air Zimbabwe, together with the demise of several other State-owned enterprises, bears stark testimony to the incompetence, inefficiency and corruption that has become the hallmark of the Zanu PF regime.

“After inheriting 14 or so fairly new aircraft at independence in 1980, the Zanu PF regime over the decades has trashed and ransacked all parastatals, including Air Zimbabwe, which hardly has any air-worthy aircraft left at the moment,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

“Mugabe should be ashamed of chartering a private plane for his numerous and purposeless foreign escapades, simply because the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, is now broke and insolvent.

“It is beyond the capacity of the Zanu PF regime to resuscitate Air Zimbabwe or any other State-owned corporation for that matter,” Gutu added.

Last week, Air Zimbabwe, plumbed to new lows after it was banned from flying into Europe over safety concerns.

“Today, the European Commission updated the EU Air Safety List, the list of non-European airlines that do not meet international safety standards, and are therefore subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union.

“Following today's update, a total of 181 airlines are banned from EU skies: 174 airlines certified in 16 states, due to a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities from these states.

“The airlines Med-View (Nigeria), Mustique Airways (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe) were added to the list due to unaddressed safety deficiencies that were detected by the European Aviation Safety Agency during the assessment for a third country operator authorisation,” the EU announced then.

Immediately after the ban was announced, Britain followed through with a warning to its citizens, urging them not to use Air Zimbabwe.

“Air Zimbabwe has been refused permission to operate flights to the EU because the airline has been unable to demonstrate that it complies with international air safety standards.

“British government employees travelling to and within Zimbabwe have been advised to use carriers that aren’t subject to the EU operating ban,” the British Embassy said in a travel alert.

Air Zim’s fleet comprises two Boeing 767s, three 737s, three MA60s and two Airbus A320s. However, only four of those are flying: one airbus, one Boeing 767, one 737 and an MA60.

The national carrier has over the past three decades struggled to shake-off claims of corruption and ineptitude, which has led to the dismissals of several of its boards and senior managers.

Last month, the beleaguered airline was a subject of bad jokes after it was involved in an embarrassing ticketing fiasco which saw it issuing handwritten boarding tickets on its international and domestic routes.

This was despite the global aviation industry moving to electronic ticketing, in line with latest standards approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose policy is to ensure airline safety, security and efficiency.

Comments (7)

So the worry is not at all about Air Zim as an entity but security concerns for irresponsible individuals? Who cares?

Sagitarr - 25 May 2017

Baffles the mind. If the Mugabes, or is it Treasury, have funds to hire private planes, why cant they direct the same funds for repairs? Plane charter is not cheap. But nooo, they would rather suck out more money to charter a plane and pay for allowances. Wooped thinking, putting us exactly where we are today.

Zuze - 25 May 2017

Heya nhai. worry about flying and not nzara. ndakubatai manje.

Muromowevakuru Hauwiripasi - 25 May 2017

It worries me much when a minister announces that the government has 'assumed a debt' in this case the airzim debt. To me what that means is that the citizenry/tax-payers have assumed that debt and will pay it back thus mortigaging burdening future generations. Why should the citizenry pay for the debt when they were never consulted when the debt was being acrued in the first place. What is the debt comprised of perhaps its bills for the airzmanagers private holidays unrealistic salaries or private trips for the first citizen on personal health check-ups. Zanupf you have not only failed current generations but future Zimbabweans too shame on you.

Sinyo - 26 May 2017

Hayas, hanzi na "The spectacular collapse of Air Zim" LOL

dada - 26 May 2017

Hayas, hanzi "The spectacular collapse of Air Zim" LOL

dada - 26 May 2017

An airline is a business, not a political party. A government is an adminstration mandated to run a country , not a political party. Zanu-PF is a political party. A national flag is an identity of a nation, not of a political party. A nation is a summation of citizens living in a country , not a gathering of a political party members. What Mugabe has done during his 30 year decades of rule is to make Zimbabwe a polical party, citizens members of his political party as a must and Air Zim a wing of his party to raise the flag to outsiders and say look this is Zimbabwe. So a business Air Zim was failed by Mugabe and will never be revived as long as the this thinking exists. For those who who are keen for Zimbabwe to be known outside its borders I say we can have an airline , a privately run airline, that we can identify with without it fying the flag. What is required is an airline registered in Zim but properly run as a succesful business. That kind of an airline will sell our country to the outside world and bring us benefits rather than than Air Rhodesia confiscated by Zanu-PF, the one now called Air Zimbabwe. Air Zim is a Zanu-PF loyalists who have nothing to do with the real qualifications for running an airline. Anybody who disagrees with me I can furnish him with all the data for him to see the truth.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 26 May 2017

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