By Prince Sunduzani
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira says the problems bedeviling Air Zimbabwe are a result of mismanagement, which the new Government is working flat out to address.
Speaking in London this week where she met the Zimbabwean diaspora community and foreign delegates during a tourism engagement event, she said resuming Air Zimbabwe’s international flights to major tourism source markets is a top priority as Government moves to ensure the country is a favourable tourism and business destination.
The Minister said Government was seized with capacitating Air Zimbabwe to ensure it meets service efficiency and business requirements that compete with its global peers.
“We are working on re-establishing Air Zimbabwe’s direct flights. I admit that we mis-managed our own airline. We destroyed it, it’s us who destroyed it and I’m taking ownership,” said Min Mupfumira.
“So I’m saying infrastructure is a key issue for us to be able to get to our major source markets. For one to go to Spain, you have to go through Dubai and other areas making the total 24hrs. China is one of the biggest source markets in tourism, we used to have a direct flight that took only 12 hours but now it takes over 36 hours as you go through other countries. That is not acceptable.”
Saddled with a $300 million debt burden, Air Zimbabwe’s top executives have come under fire in the last few years on accusations of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.
Between 2009 and 2013, Air Zimbabwe lost nearly $10 million in a “well-planned and well- executed” aviation insurance fraud, which a magistrate said was “pre-planned” by its top executives who circumvented laid-down procurement procedures.
This saw the two former Air Zim executives being arrested for “bringing the company to its knees” in one of Zimbabwe’s biggest corporate fraud scandals.
Last year, the state owned airline was said to be reporting huge losses of $2 million every month as mismanagement, high operating costs, old equipment and aircraft that were no longer profitable to fly weighed on its bottom-line.
Min Mupfumira said the absence of Air Zimbabwe on international routes was a cause for concern and that Government was seriously looking into the matter.“I’m trying to underline the problem of flight connectivity. We are losing business as a nation and this is something which is a priority to the Ministry of Transport.
“We want to have intra-African airlines. We need to sort out air connectivity and direct flights to major areas where there is a tourism source market and to areas where there is a good population of Zimbabweans, so its work in progress, bear with us,” she said.
The minister also called on the Zimbabwean Diaspora to bring back the intellectual capital acquired from their experience in other countries for the re-building of the country’s economy and job creation.
Last year, the ailing flag carrier mooted re-establishing long-haul flights, particularly the Harare-London route, as part of measures to increase its revenue.
The airline last operated the route in 2012 when it was expelled from the International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) clearing house after accumulating fee arrears. The Chronicle