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Air Zim in talks with two potential partners to revamp operations

HARARE  –  Air Zimbabwe is negotiating with  two potential partners as it seeks to secure capital to turnaround its fortunes,

while it also expects to re-brand by the end of this year as part of the turnaround strategy that management is implementing, officials said  on Monday.

The Government appointed a new board and substantive chief executive last year as it moved to change the fortunes of the airline, a  perennial loss maker.

Air Zimbabwe chief executive, Captain Ripton Muzenda said although the airline desperately needed a partner, it would not be ideal  for the Government to privatise it.

“We are fully cognisant that the shareholder may not be able to give us  the capital requirements that we need, so we have been engaging  partners. There are two strategic partners that we are talking to but I will not be able to disclose their names because there is already a  non-disclosure agreement in place,” he said.

“One of them we are quite glad comes specifically for the debt. Their  intervention is to be a facilitator with all those creditors that we  owe. So they are an independent party, they facilitate negotiations,  come up with a payment plan.

“They are able to come up with capital  themselves to facilitate the resumption of long haul flights which will  enable us to generate more money.”

Capt Muzenda was giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary  Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development. He said the other partner, who is a tour operator from Europe, was  interested in partnering Air Zimbabwe to fly tourists from Europe direct  to Zimbabwe, and a meeting with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority had been held to iron out potential challenges the partner could face.

Capt Muzenda said Air Zimbabwe was making considerable progress to  regain profitability and had been reducing its losses every year since  2013.

“We are targeting to generate $47 million by 31st December, 2017.  That’s the target we have set ourselves but that is taking into account  that we are able to make some of the changes that we want to do. Last year the revenue that we generated was $36 million,” he said.

Other targets under the turnaround strategy included regaining  mandatory safety certification from the International Air Transport  Association and the European Aviation Safety Agency by the end of next  month.

A restructuring and re-training exercise would also be done before the  end of this year, to create a lean and efficient workforce. Plans were also in place to acquire at least one plane this year and to  turn Harare into a hub and expand its route network, Capt Muzenda said.

Air Zimbabwe board chairperson, Chipo Dyanda expressed optimism that  the turnaround strategy would yield desired results.

“One of the things that we want to change is the culture of the  organisation. The culture of the organisation I think is what brought  the organisation down. The work habits, the careless attitude. We want  everybody trained from the pilot to the sweeper so that there is a culture of building this organisation than pulling it down,” she said.

Air Zimbabwe is saddled with a $298 million debt, which it has been  lobbying the Government to take over. The company has been struggling to pay its employees and meeting its  obligations over the years.  New Ziana

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