A MINISTERIAL statement on the future of Air Zimbabwe has been delayed by a week as officials work feverishly to tie-up a deal with new investors to save the comatose national carrier.
Transport Minister Nicholas Goche had indicated over the weekend that Air Zimbabwe would top the cabinet agenda this week, but the airline’s future was not discussed at Tuesday’s cabinet session.
The airline grounded all regional and international flights last December after creditors in London and Johannesburg threatened to seize its aircraft.
In March, the government disbanded Air Zimbabwe Holdings after inheriting its US$150m debt and formed a new state-owned company, Air Zimbabwe Private Limited.
The move was aimed at clearing the slate for the airline to make it attractive for a partnership with other international airlines.
Goche is expected to reveal to cabinet colleagues several offers on the table which could see Air Zimbabwe back flying to Johannesburg, London and China by Christmas.
A source familiar with the negotiations said: “The last time Goche went to cabinet to outline the changes at Air Zimbabwe in March, he was told that Air Zimbabwe’s only salvation would come from a partnership with private investors or a foreign airline. The government has no money.
“The minister has several scenarios which he will present to Cabinet next week. He couldn’t do it last week because he was ill, and he was unable to present these proposals this week because of a new development, but expect that next week ministers will most likely give a nod to his proposed rescue plan for the airline.”
Ministers believe Air Zimbabwe’s brand and routes are its biggest selling point. With new investors and increased reliability, they hope the airline will repair its battered public image quickly.
Goche is working overtime to get Air Zimbabwe back in the air in time for the increased passenger numbers during the December holidays.
Air Zimbabwe has already acquired two Airbus aircraft to be used on domestic and regional routes, but pending the finalisation of a partnership with a foreign airline, its overseas routes will continue to be serviced by its two Boeing 767s.
Air Zimbabwe’s expected return coincides with growing international airline interest in Zimbabwe.
The United Arab Emirates airline, Emirates, says it is boosting its five-times-a-week schedule from Dubai to Harare to daily, starting from October 1.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, meanwhile, has announced that it will begin flights from Amsterdam to Harare starting on October 29.