By Africa Moyo
GOVERNMENT is understood to have abandoned its plan to merge the boards of Air Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Airways amid indications that a new strategy to revive the national airline has been crafted. Details of the new initiative to turnaround Air Zimbabwe, which is burdened by legacy debts of over $334 million, could not be established by the time of going to print.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo told The Herald Business recently that there were plans to cut costs by creating one board to manage the affairs of both Air Zimbabwe and Zim Airways.
However, a senior Government official who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday said: “there are a few things that have unfolded” regarding the revival of Air Zimbabwe, which have rendered the creation of one board unnecessary.
“Basically, there is a way forward where the Government is going ahead with rationalisation of the national airliner. That rationalisation in essence, acknowledges the coming in of Zim Airways into the fray so the task of the inter-ministerial team created was that of ushering in a new operational strategy where Air Zimbabwe, side-by-side with Zim Airways, would then operate under on board but with their operations being broken into regional (Air Zimbabwe) and international (Zim Airways),” said the top Government official.
“I think you are better placed to speak to the permanent secretary but I can assure you that there are developments that overtook the initial plan to merge the two because I am sure you heard about the appointment of the administrator of the national airline.”
No comment could be obtained from Transport Minister, Dr Gumbo or his permanent secretary, Engineer George Mlilo.
Eng Mlilo referred questions to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
“Why don’t you talk to the Ministry of Finance?
“They are the ones handling that,” said Eng Mlilo.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance Mr Willard Manungo, could not be reached for comment yesterday as his mobile phone was continually engaged.
Due to mounting debts and the threat of having its property attached, Government has decided to separate the operations of Air Zimbabwe by creating another firm, Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited.
The two companies, Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited and Air Zimbabwe Holdings shall operate separately.
In a Government Gazette published last week, Government issued a reconstruction order in relation to Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited and Air Zimbabwe Holdings.
Mr Edwin Zvandasara was appointed to be the administrator of the companies.
In 2009, Government also created Zimbabwe Airways, a new debt-free national airline, in a bid to duck creditors who were circling Air Zimbabwe’s property including planes.
This followed the seizure of Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767-200 inscribed “Victoria Falls” at Gatwick International Airport in 2011.
The aircraft was impounded by American General Supplies over a $1,2 million debt for spares.
But due to a significantly improved political environment following the coming in of the new administration led by President Mnangagwa, the threat of having planes impounded has subsided because of the re-engagement process that has gathered pace.