HARARE- The Minister of Transport and Communications, Nicholas Goche, has issued a circular to stop Air Zimbabwe management from flying its aircraft to South Africa and the United Kingdom where one of its long haul Boeing 767 aircraft was recently impounded over an outstanding debt.
The circular was issued last week leaving the national airline virtually grounded. The suspended routes are its cash cows. Creditors in London and Johannesburg South Africa are waiting to impound Air Zimbabwe planes to try and force it to honour its debts.
Sources at Air Zimbabwe told Radio VOP that the minister of Transport and Communications took the drastic action last week after he got a tongue lashing from President Robert Mugabe who nearly missed his annual holiday to the Far East after the long haul plane that he normally uses to travel on outside trips was impounded in London.
Mugabe had to use a commercial plane specially hired for him by Mbada Diamonds where he is a shareholder. “The circular was issued last week and it targets two destinations, Johannesburg and London,” an Air Zimbabwe source said.
Air Zimbabwe Chief Executive Innocent Mavhunga could neither confirm nor deny the issuance of the circular saying, “I am not aware of that,” but we are still not able to fly to Johannesburg and London until we get the money to pay for our debts. The circular will last until 15 January when the government is expected to have released some funds to Air Zimbabwe for debt payment purposes.
Air Zimbabwe is however still flying to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Far East, Lusaka, Zambia and locally to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
The troubled airline is reported to owe $500 000 for services rendered in Johannesburg. A Johannesburg cargo handling company recently refused to offer services to Air Zimbabwe forcing the airline to transport the over 100 passengers on board in a four-sedan vehicle from the plane to the OR Tambo International Airport Terminal.
An Air Zimbabwe plane was recently impounded at London’s Gatwick Airport until a debt of $1.2 million was paid. The airline managed to fly back to Zimbabwe on Christmas day. Air Zimbabwe is said to be in debt running into millions of dollars, among the debts are millions of dollars also owed to its restive workforce three quarters of whom have since stopped coming to work.
The national airline used to be one of the best run airline companies in Africa but it has suffered from years of mismanagement and political interference. Efforts by successive chief executive officers to revive the airline have failed. Most of them have left the company in a worse condition than they found it. Radio VOP