HARARE – Parliament says government should clarify the ownership of Zimbabwe Airways (Zim Airways) before it is merged with struggling national airline Air Zimbabwe (AirZim).
“Air Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Airways’ relationship should be clear as well as their ownership status to ensure that the process of merging the two is transparent.
Governance issues associated with Zimbabwe Airways such as ownership should also be resolved before merging the two institutions,” said Daniel Garwe, the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport chairperson.
Zim Airways has been linked to former president Robert Mugabe’s family. Government has, however, denied this, saying it owns 100 percent of the airline.
Former Transport minister Joram Gumbo previously said the airline was a private company owned by Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. However, new Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza has said Zim Airways was set up for strategic reasons but government now intends to merge it with AirZim in order for the two to complement each another.
“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 Matiza.
Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore has been instrumental in setting up Zim Airways.
He and Gumbo were heavily involved with the airline, taking part in negotiations for the lease of aircraft from Malaysia. The minister, in particular, has come under criticism following Zim Airways’ acquisition of the aircraft from Malaysia — including a Boeing 777 jetliner — which was, however, sent back to the Asian country for repairs before it had made a single commercial flight.
In March, former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said government had already paid about $41 million for the B777 intercontinental aircraft, one of which has already been delivered.
Government said the purchase of the aircrafts is part of a broad strategy that will see them drafted into the AirZim fleet to revive its flagging fortunes. It intends to come up with a bigger and efficient national airline with the capacity to connect into the regional and international destinations, where the undercapitalised AirZim has been failing to fly.
Gumbo in the past said the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company would lease the planes to Zim Airways. He has also claimed, among other things, that the government had kept the deal to register Zim Airways under wraps to evade the seizure of its planes by former commercial farmers whose land was seized by the State during the country’s chaotic reforms.