By Fungi Kwaramba
Former president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore, was arrested on charges of kidnapping Zimbabwe Airways’ legal head, Bertha Zakeyo, in a case that illustrates worsening turbulence at the controversy-dogged airline.
This comes as the first of the three purchased Zimbabwe Airways planes was delivered to Harare from Malaysia and grounded for over two months before it was flown back for maintenance.
So bad is the situation that the management at the airline is now going at each other hammer and tongs, accusing each other of selling company secrets, breach of confidence and being disloyal to the stuttering airline.
Chikore — married to Mugabe’s daughter Bona — has reportedly embarked on a purge of senior staff he accuses of being disloyal to the company.
Zakeyo lodged a complaint with the police yesterday, alleging Chikore kidnapped her for two hours.
According to Zakeyo, she received a letter from her boss Chikore, who could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print, demanding that she responds to a battery of charges levelled against her.
The charges include holding unsanctioned meetings outside the company premises and trading sensitive information.
And on Wednesday, she received an e-mail from Chikore demanding that she writes a report detailing her dealings with unnamed external parties.
In a docket opened at the Highlands Police Station, Zakeyo said Chikore — whom she accused of masquerading as a captain — kidnapped her for more than two hours and also denied her access to her lawyer, Phillipa Jones.
“They came to my office around 10 o’clock. They wanted to escort me from the offices. There were five people, including two people who are employed by the company.
Five guys came and handed me a letter which they said I must sign and leave the premises. I refused to sign and told them that this was illegal and tantamount to victimisation. They said they were working under instructions and had been told that I had to pack all my belongings and leave,” said Zakeyo.
When she refused to listen to the security guards, Chikore — who was all the while locked up in his office — allegedly called police officers saying there was a person who was brewing trouble at the company.
“I called my lawyer and they denied her entrance. The security guard was not allowed to let my lawyer in. I told them that I have a constitutional right to have the lawyers. When the police came to my office, they said they had been called by Simba to observe my ejection from the office.
“I said since they were police, I wanted a lawyer and after a long wait, she was then allowed in and that was after about two hours. When I said I am ready to leave after packing my things, they then demanded the spare keys and a laptop that I had left at home’’.
According to a dismissal letter inked by Chikore, Zakeyo was accused of failing to respond to his letter and failed to “utilise the opportunity to take the employer into your confidence and give a convincing explanation. You raised more questions than answers,” the letter said.
“Accordingly, I write to inform you that your employment is hereby terminated. This termination is with immediate effect,” read part of Chikore’s letter to Zakeyo.
Trouble has been brewing at Zimbabwe Airways, which is under an opaque ownership that involves government, Chikore and some unnamed foreign nationals.
Recently, the airline got delivery of its first bird, a Boeing 777 which was unveiled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa amid much pomp and fanfare.
It was, however, flown back to Malaysia after attracting unsustainable charges including steep parking fees.
The airline also failed to mobilise funds to hire pilots to fly the plane. DailyNews