By Obert Gutu
Something is definitely not right at Air Zimbabwe Corporation. At independence in April 1980, Air Zimbabwe, formed from the ashes of Air Rhodesia, inherited no less than fourteen (14) fairly new aircraft. Thirty seven (37) years down the line, Air Zimbabwe has been vandalized and ransacked to such an extent that there are only just about four (4) serviceable aircraft that are owned by the national airline.
The MDC is deeply concerned by the continued bleeding of our national pride, Air Zimbabwe Corporation. From having a tradition of caring in the early years soon after independence, Air Zimbabwe has now assumed the dubious distinction of having a tradition of scaring; a sordid and deplorable reputation where flights are routinely delayed and/or cancelled and passengers are forced to travel aboard old, dilapidated and noisy aircraft.
Recent events at Air Zimbabwe literally read like a horror movie story line. One Simba Chikore, the son – in – law of President Robert Mugabe, is virtually in charge of the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, at the moment. The Chief Executive Officer, Captain Ripton Muzenda, has been suspended from employment under extremely shadowy and suspicious circumstances.
As if this was not enough, Transport Minister Joram Gumbo is being very edgy and conservative with the actual details and reasons surrounding Captain Muzenda’s suspension from employment. The whole incident smacks of a complete dog’s breakfast.
What the hell is Zimbabwe Airways? Who owns this private airline company? Is the Mugabe family not the actual and beneficial shareholders of Zimbabwe Airways? Recent press reports have disclosed that Zimbabwe Airways has clinched a multi – million dollars deal in terms of which the privately – owned airline will be leasing four long – haul Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia Airlines.
This deal stinks to high heavens. At a time when Air Zimbabwe is virtually on its knees and is burdened by a colossal debt of no less than US$300 million, Transport Minister Joram Gumbo and the Air Zimbabwe de facto boss, Simba Chikore, are busy wheeling and dealing on behalf of and for the benefit of a privately – owned airline, Zimbabwe Airways.
There is a serious conflict of interest and gross abuse of the basic tenets of good corporate governance in this whole transaction. Put bluntly, this transaction is blatantly opaque, unjustifiable and downright corrupt. Parliament must immediately move in to get to the bottom of this scandal in our aviation industry. The full details of the Zimbabwe Airways transaction, chapter and verse, have to be disclosed for the benefit of the nation.
Why is Minister Joram Gumbo globe – trotting, at State expenditure, to cut deals on behalf of a privately – owned airline whilst our own national airline, Air Zimbabwe, is almost bankrupt? Whose agenda is Minister Joram Gumbo pushing? And why is the Air Zimbabwe de facto boss, Simba Chikore, consulting on behalf of a competing private airline, Zimbabwe Airways whilst he remains on the payroll of our national airline, Air Zimbabwe? Something is definitely not right here!
The MDC is thoroughly disappointed with the public disclosure that Zimbabwe Airways will soon be flying the highly lucrative Harare – London route whilst Air Zimbabwe remains virtually comatose. In fact, both Minister Joram Gumbo and Simba Chikore have to be thoroughly investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti – Corruption Commission.
They have got a prima facie case of high level corruption that both men have got to answer to. We cannot just stand aside and watch whilst an important national asset, Air Zimbabwe Corporation, is being bled into bankruptcy and oblivion in order to privately benefit a few politically well – connected people.
The MDC has a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and as such, we demand that a no– holds–barred and exhaustive forensic audit be immediately instituted into the business affairs of Air Zimbabwe Corporation. More importantly, both Minister Joram Gumbo and Simba Chikore must give the nation a detailed and satisfactory explanation of the exact role that they are playing in the business affairs of a competing private airline, Zimbabwe Airways.
Obert Chaurura Gutu, MDC National Spokesperson