By Lloyd Gumbo
Air Zimbabwe is in the process of restructuring its staff, in a move that will see a number of senior positions collapsed to reduce costs, the airline’s chief executive Captain Ripton Muzenda has said.Capt Muzenda said this when he, together with the Airzim board chairperson Professor Chipo Dyanda appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development chaired by Chegutu West MP Cde Dexter Nduna (Zanu-PF).
He said the airline had since 2013 started reducing losses despite operating at about 40 percent.
Capt Muzenda said the national airline had a strategic plan that hovered around reintroducing international flights by having an International Air Transport Association (IATA) clearing house membership by May 31 2017, acquiring an aircraft by December 31 and rebranding Airzim among others.
“We are in the process of restructuring, but we put a date of December 31 2017,” said Capt Muzenda.
“But the airline will not wait until the end of the year. The restructuring will be completed before year-end. At present, the executive new structure has been agreed on and recruitment has been completed.”
He said soon after the restructuring exercise, staff would be trained to capacitate them together with management. Capt Muzenda said it would be important after the training to have staff with multi-tasking skills.
He said the national flag carrier is also projected to generate about $47 million by the end of December, compared to the $36 million that was generated last year. He said this would only be possible if they succeeded in making the changes they intended to effect.
“We have been reducing the losses since 2013. Air Zimbabwe has been making good progress since 2013.
“Between 2013 and 2014, Air Zimbabwe reduced the loss by 11 percent. Between 2014 and 2015, Air Zimbabwe reduced the loss by 28 percent and between 2015 and 2016, Air Zimbabwe reduced the loss by 21 percent. “The airline has been in the right trajectory. We project that this year we will reduce loss by 30 percent,” he said.
Capt Muzenda said at the moment, the airline incurred more costs than the revenue it generated, but was hoping to break-even at about 70 percent capacity utilisation.
Zanu-PF MP for Pumula Cde Godfrey Malaba asked Captain Muzenda whether a viable option for Airzim would be for it to be privatised or commercialised.
Capt Muzenda said it was important for the Government to retain control of the national airline for strategic purposes although it could do with partnerships.
He said they were in the process of negotiating with a European tour operator, who expressed an interest to settle Airzim’s foreign debt, particularly with IATA, so that it could resume international flights that would increase revenue collections.
Prof Dyanda said Airzim had the potential to be resuscitated for as long as the right systems were in place.
“We know we have a debt, but the management structure that we have put in place, the vision that we have to contribute to economic development, the vision that we have to support important sectors like industry, tourism, agriculture is going to raise the profile for Air Zimbabwe.
“We should not say, because of what happened yesterday, we cannot move forward. We are very determined.
“One of the issues that the board emphasised (to management) is that ‘you are operating at 40 percent, we want you to move to 60 to 80 percent where we are able to break-even even in 2017’. We are putting their feet on fire because it is possible to remove all these losses,” said Prof Dyanda.
She said the national airline had the capacity to transport agricultural produce to Europe and other continents, something that would make it viable.
Prof Dyanda said Airzim would be able to operate profitably if Government were to take over its debt to give it breathing space