All Eyes On Air Zim

By Africa Moyo

Companies offering services to Air Zimbabwe are pinning hopes of viability and possible repayment of debts on the placement of the national airline under reconstruction.

This emerged on Monday when head honchos of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) and the National Handling Services (NHS) appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development.

CAAZ is owed $44,8 million dating back to 2009 for the provision of airport and air navigation services, while NHS is also owed $24 million for passenger and cargo handling. The debts are negatively impacting on the two companies’ operations.

Both CAAZ and NHS want Air Zimbabwe to return to viable operations for them to increase capacity and improve revenue collection.

CAAZ director general David Chawota, said while there are no visible changes to Air Zimbabwe’s fortunes since placement under reconstruction on October 4 last year, a “viable” national airline was critical for improved revenues and tourism growth.

“The placing of the airline under reconstruction has so far not changed status of operations relating to the authority (CAAZ),” said Mr Chawota.

“It is hoped that the administrator (Mr Reggie Saruchera of Grant Thornton) will be able to turnaround the airline for it to operate viably and competitively.

“A viable national airline is a key factor in the stabilisation of cost of air travel in the country, which is good for the growth of tourism.”

By virtue of being the national airline, Air Zimbabwe drives the country’s air transport.

And when operating “normally”, Air Zimbabwe contributes 30 percent to CAAZ’s total revenue and ranks in the top three of the authority’s revenue contributors by airline.

Said Mr Chawota: “A weak Air Zimbabwe impacts negatively on the authority’s financial performance as it is the major layer in the domestic air transportation.

“The authority is investing $400 million in the expansion and modernisation of airport infrastructure and with a weak national airline, this infrastructure will not be optimally utilised for the authority to recoup its investment.

” . . . the arrangement prevailing at Air Zimbabwe at the moment and the relationship between the administrator, airline management and the authority, is working quite well under the circumstances, bar non-settlement of bills. It is sincerely hoped that the reconstruction order will achieve its intention of preventing the liquidation of Air Zimbabwe.”

NHS general manager Godknows Marawanyika, also said while they have not yet been paid part of their dues as promised by Air Zimbabwe administrator Mr Saruchera, he hopes the company would be transformed.

“We are still hopeful that the reconstruction will turnaround Air Zimbabwe (although) in the short-term, the effects would be a bit negative.

“Air Zimbabwe has not been consistent in its operations so the reconstruction has come up with a programme of action, which if followed would help turnaround the company. Because of the challenges they (Air Zimbabwe) have been facing, the company has not been paying its obligations and NHS is $24 million,” said Mr Marawanyika.

Mr Marawanyika said NHS fears that the debt could be written off, if Government was to take-over debts owed to other parastatals as part of efforts to revive Air Zimbabwe.

Source : The Herald

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