By Leopold Munhende
THE Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has been implicated in the raging Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) mess after it emerged senior officials there orchestrated the ousting of administrator Reggie Saruchera late last month, NewZimbabwe.com has learnt.
He was being accused of failing to turn its fortunes around despite receiving huge amounts of cash for its revival, NewZimbabwe.com.
Sources at the troubled national airline said the OPC issued a directive to Saruchera who is also the Grant Thornton managing director ordering him to leave office by June 20.
This, sources said, came after concerns he was failing to turn the national flag carrier’s fortunes around.
Saruchera was appointed administrator in October 2018 with specific instructions to turn around the fortunes of the parastatal and clearing its US$349 million local debt which has ballooned ever since.
AirZim also owes international partners, including the International Air Transport Association, over US$30 million.
An AirZim executive told NewZimbabwe.com that a few days before his departure, Saruchera had a meeting with employees where it was revealed that the OPC had given him the marching orders.
The OPC reportedly accused Saruchera and his team of worsening the situation at the national carrier by dismantling administrative systems, making it even more difficult to resuscitate.
A source described the situation at the company as so bad “it will be extremely difficult for any new board or management to function”.
“The 30 June deadline was given by President’s Office after realising that they were taking too long to finalise the process,” an official source said.
“The OPC basically accused Saruchera and his team of failing to turn AirZim’s fortunes around and had become part of the problem at the airline. They were accused of decimating systems to the extent that it will be a huge problem for the incoming board and management,” the source said.
“Saruchera suggested that management may have to report to the Ministry of Transport for now until a board has been appointed. There are allegations that the administrator was paid a lot of money for the job but with really nothing to show for it.”
With only two planes at its disposal and the government’s delayed assumption of its debt, Air Zimbabwe remains under resourced and most of its fleet grounded.
The two wide-bodied Boeing 777-200ER jetliners which were acquired from Malaysian Airways, which had retired them on safety grounds, are lying idle because it has no capacity to operate them since they are costly.
They also cannot be used on long haul routes they were specifically acquired for because of the Covid-19 pandemic-induced travel restrictions.
The source added: “The aircraft that were bought will not be used by Air Zimbabwe for the foreseeable future because the airline has no capacity to operate them. At the same time, the two aircraft are not marketable either through lease or outright purchase. It’s a real mess here.”
Repeated efforts by NewZimbabwe.com to get comments from Transport and Infrastructure Development Felix Mhona were fruitless as calls on his phone went unanswered.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could also not be reached for comment.