Zim­babwe’s lat­est air­line ven­ture

Zim­babwe Air­ways has come into ex­is­tence but is it fea­si­ble?

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - PETA THORNY­CROFT

EX­TRAOR­DI­NAR­ILY, and some might say, imag­i­na­tively, Zim­babwe has cre­ated a new air­line, called Zim­babwe Air­ways. This new com­pany has al­legedly bought a mas­sive 300 seater Boe­ing 777200ER from Malaysian Air­ways.

There are even pho­tos of the new air­craft, prob­a­bly taken in Malaysia, with new sig­nage which re­flect Zim­babwe’s na­tional colours and its fa­mous Zim­babwe bird on the plane’s tail.

There is not yet any in­for­ma­tion about how any Zim­babwe air­line com­pany would fill such an enor­mous air­craft on its small re­gional routes, most of which are no longer in use or have huge com­pe­ti­tion from other com­pa­nies, such as SAA.

Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Air Zim­babwe Simba Chikore, President Robert Mu­gabe’s son-in-law, who sounded pleas­ant and po­lite, an­swered his phone from a num­ber which seems to orig­i­nate in Dubai.

He said he “could not com­ment” on the new plane. “I am not the gov­ern­ment of Zim­babwe.” But he did say that Zim­babwe was try­ing to do its “best to get new equip­ment for the air­line.” He said “we” the public will know when that hap­pens. Chikore was, be­fore his mar­riage, a first of­fi­cer with Qatar Air­ways.

Air Zim­babwe was re­cently dis­al­lowed to fly to, or over Europe for safety rea­sons at­tached to its only two long-haul, elderly Boe­ing 767 air­craft, which need main­te­nance ap­par­ently, and which usu­ally fly Mu­gabe, his wife and many se­nior public ser­vants on their fre­quent in­ter­na­tional trips around the world.

Air Zim only has two more small air­craft in the air at present which fly against com­pe­ti­tion to and from Joburg, and within Zim­babwe.

Air Zim­babwe’s most prof­itable route used to be to Gatwick Air­port, Lon­don, as hundreds of thou­sands of Zim­bab­weans moved to live in the UK after po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence and eco­nomic col­lapse emerged after the new po­lit­i­cal party, the Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change, nearly beat Mu­gabe’s Zanu-PF party in the 2000 elec­tions.

One of Air Zim­babwe’s 767s was im­pounded for weeks at Gatwick in 2012, after cred­i­tors seized it to force Air Zim­babwe to set­tle its bills for spare parts from the US sup­plier.

Since then Air Zim­babwe can­celled its prof­itable route to ‘Harare North’, as Lon­don is known to many Zim­bab­weans.

Beloved Mup­fu­rurirwa, lo­cal inspector for Cen­tral African Air­ways Avi­a­tion, which would need to be in­volved in the reg­is­tra­tion of any new com­mer­cial air­craft, would not talk with The Star. He said Air Zim­babwe’s in­for­ma­tion would deal with this ques­tion.

But Air Zim didn’t an­swer its phone.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia in the last 24 hours, the Zim­babwe Air­lines 12-year-old Boe­ing 777-200ER was leased from Malaysia Air­lines.

Air Zim­babwe has enor­mous debts to sup­pli­ers and its work­force, and some sug­gest the name change to Zim­babwe Air­ways, and some cre­ative ac­count­ing in terms of the lease name and own­er­ship de­tails would put at least some cos­metic dis­tance be­tween it and Air Zim­babwe, and this might al­low this new air­line to op­er­ate with­out fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties or repet­i­tive em­bar­rass­ment.

But whether the Euro­pean Avi­a­tion Safety Agency (EASA) would wel­come Zim­babwe back un­der un­clear cir­cum­stances of real own­er­ship of the air­craft and tech­ni­cal staff, is not clear.

Ethiopian Air­ways has pre­vi­ously said it would help Air Zim­babwe re­gain its for­mer sta­tus as a busy, ef­fi­cient and prof­itable re­gional air­line.

It is not clear whether Zim­babwe could fill a Boe­ing 777200ER, even to Gatwick Air­port if EASA would let any Zim­babwe air­line fly over its ter­ri­tory again. – For­eign Ser­vice

PO­LITE: Simba Chikore, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Air Zim­babwe. He is President Robert Mu­gabe’s son-in-law.

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