Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Mashudu Net­sianda Busi­ness Re­porter

PLANS are un­der­way to merge Air Zim­babwe with Zim­babwe Air­ways un­der a new strat­egy aimed at re­vi­tal­is­ing the debt-rid­den na­tional air­liner, Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter, En­gi­neer Joel Big­gie Ma­tiza, said yes­ter­day.

He told Busi­ness Chronicle in an in­ter­view that the pro­posed merger of the two air­line com­pa­nies was in line with Govern­ment’s thrust to turn­around the na­tional car­rier, which is bur­dened by legacy debts of over $334 mil­lion.

“We are work­ing on putting them (Air Zim­babwe and Zim­babwe Air­ways) to­gether so that we have an ef­fi­cient na­tional air­line com­pany. In fact, it is a process as we all want is to see our na­tional flag car­rier fly­ing again,” said Eng Ma­tiza.

“We are proud of Air Zim­babwe hence we want to see it in the skies. We are in the Sec­ond Repub­lic and we are now putting up things prop­erly.”

He said the min­istry was fi­nal­is­ing the pur­chase agree­ment of four Boe­ing 777 air­craft pro­cured re­cently by Zim­babwe Air­ways. Govern­ment took de­liv­ery of one of the planes, a Boe­ing 777 jet­liner, in April, and the re­main­ing three are still to be paid for.

Eng Ma­tiza said Govern­ment was also work­ing to­wards se­cur­ing smaller Em­braer air­craft for the ser­vic­ing of do­mes­tic routes.

“Air Zim­babwe does not have an ad­e­quate air­craft fleet mix and this has forced the air­line to op­er­ate on a deficit.

“How­ever, we are say­ing with the new air­craft in place, Govern­ment in­tends to merge Air Zim­babwe and Zim­babwe Air­ways so that they com­ple­ment each an­other,” he ex­plained.

“The smaller air­craft will ser­vice do­mes­tic routes, A320s for re­gional routes and the B777 will ser­vice the in­ter­na­tional routes”.

Min­is­ter Ma­tiza also said Govern­ment was con­sid­er­ing an op­tion of en­gag­ing a strate­gic part­ner with ef­forts un­der­way to re­cap­i­talise the air­line through a model to be dis­cussed with the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe.

“We are try­ing to come up with a busi­ness model to be dis­cussed with RBZ, which al­lows us as much as pos­si­ble to start hav­ing rev­enue com­ing in and we are also look­ing for a strate­gic part­ner.

“We have the equip­ment and what needs to be done in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try is to see that equip­ment fly­ing up there so that we gen­er­ate rev­enue,” he said.

Eng Ma­tiza ac­knowl­edged chal­lenges fac­ing the Air Zim­babwe, which in­clude legacy debt, di­lap­i­dated air­craft and equip­ment fleet and lack of work­ing cap­i­tal. Govern­ment cre­ated Zim­babwe Air­ways as a new debt-free na­tional air­line, in a bid to duck cred­i­tors who were cir­cling Air Zim­babwe’s prop­er­ties in­clud­ing planes.

The de­ci­sion 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 Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, the threat of hav­ing planes im­pounded has sub­sided be­cause of the re-en­gage­ment process that has gath­ered pace. — @mash­nets

En­gi­neer Joel Big­gie Ma­tiza

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