Zimbabwe’s bedraggled national airline has a new boss – and the fact that he is President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law has nothing to do with his appointment, apparently.
You could have fooled Zimbabweans.
Thirty-nine-year-old Simba Chikore was finally confirmed as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Air Zimbabwe by a report in the official Herald newspaper on Wednesday following a social media storm prompted by leaked news of his appointment.
State ZBC television on Tuesday carried a damning expose of the state of the affairs at the national carrier, showing ramshackle head offices littered with broken chairs and left-over food takeouts.
But the report, screened on the main evening news bulletin, did not say that Chikore had been appointed as second in command (there was one shot of the back of someone’s head that may or may not have been Bona Mugabe’s husband).
It was too late. On Twitter anger was bubbling over.
‘They are not ashamed anymore’
“It’s official. Zimbabwe is now Mugabwe,” tweeted one user.
Trevor Ncube, publisher and critic of Mugabe’s government said he’d been left “wordless” by the news. “They are not ashamed anymore. They own Zimbabwe,” he said in a tweet.
Chikore is reported to have worked as a pilot though Qatar Airways and Emirates have both reportedly objected to claims he has worked for them.
Former finance minister Tendai Biti, who was fighting his own battles in court on Tuesday over a police ban on demonstrations said Chikore’s appointment represented “a new low even by [ZANU-PF’s] standards”.
Tweeted Biti: “How does someone who has never run a tuck shop become COO of a major even though broken parastatal?”
Obert Gutu of the main Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement: “This just confirms that the Mugabe dynasty has virtually privatised the state.”
Air Zimbabwe’s $300m debt has recently been taken over by the government, despite a worsening cash crisis.
Corruption and economic mismanagement
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo told the official Herald newspaper on Wednesday that Chikore’s credentials “actually surpass the required qualifications.”
The president’s son-in-law is reported to have been one of more than 100 applicants for the post.
The son of the late vice president Simon Muzenda is chief executive officer of the airline.
Chikore’s father-in-law, 92-year-old president Mugabe, frequently uses Air Zimbabwe for official and personal foreign trips.
Mugabe’s only daughter Bona married Chikore in a glittering ceremony in 2014.
The couple have a son, Simbanashe.
Critics of Mugabe’s government – which is facing mounting discontent over claims of corruption and economic mismanagement – say Air Zimbabwe should make public the list of applicants so that it can be proved that Chikore really was the best candidate.
“Blessed are they who marry into the Zim 1st family 4 they shall be hand picked for big jobs,” tweeted @BusieBhebhe.