By Leopold Munhende
THE controversial Zimbabwe Airways has been merged with the troubled Air Zimbabwe, transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza confirmed Monday.
Simba Chikore, son-in-law to former president Robert Mugabe, took a lead last year in the establishment – using State funds – of Zimbabwe Airways in a murky deal with left many believing the former first family owned the airline.
Plans to establish the airline however, hit headwinds after Mugabe was toppled last November by the military.
Addressing reporters in the capital Monday, minister Matiza confirmed at the two airlines had been merged, adding that Zimbabwe Airways aircraft would service regional and international routes.
“I would like to inform the nation that Zimbabwe Airways is a government entity,” the minister said.
“It is important to know that Air Zimbabwe does not have the adequate aircraft mix, an issue which has forced the airline to operate at a deficit.
“With the new aircraft in place government intends to merge Air Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Airways to complement one another on local and international routes.”
Asked on why government had set up Zimbabwe Airways in the first place, considering the administration’s failure to capitalise Air Zimbabwe, Matiza said there was nothing wrong with having a second national airline.
“There is nothing wrong with having two national airlines; it (Zimbabwe Airways) was set-up for strategic business but our main purpose right now is to have Air Zimbabwe in the sky,” he said.
Air Zimbabwe is currently reeling under a legacy debt amounting to $341 million.
Meanwhile, Matiza revealed that government is working on setting up provincial airports and aerodromes across the country to stimulate growth of the tourism and related sectors.