Troubled Air Zimbabwe to receive two Malaysian planes

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By Anna Chibamu

BELEAGUERED national flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe will soon take delivery of two aircrafts bought under a controversial arrangement that at the time reportedly involved now Minister in the Office of the President Joram Gumbo and former President Robert Mugabe’s widow, Grace.

Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore also had interests in the deal that cost the taxpayer millions amid claims the aircraft deal was a private arrangement but funded by government through a company known as Zimbabwe Airways.

Reserve Bank Governor John Mangudya recently told Parliament’s Public Accounts Portfolio committee that the two Boeing 777-200 ER aircrafts had gone under refurbishment in Malaysia and government would soon receive them after engineers were sent to speed up the process.

Air Zimbabwe reportedly has only one plane in service that two weeks ago was briefly impounded in South Africa after the parastatal failed to pay taxes and other airport costs.

Chirumanzu MP Barbara Rwodzi, a Public Accounts Committee member had asked Mangudya on progress on the deal as the airline was struggling with only one plane to service its routes, often letting down travellers.

“As the paymaster, I am currently paying for two aircraft that were bought by government from Malaysia. Anytime soon…the two aircraft that are being refurbished, they will be here.

“I have checked on progress with Transport Minister Biggie Matiza and he confirmed that the planes would be here soon. Engineers from Air Zimbabwe have also been dispatched to Malaysia to finalise the processes to be done,” said Mangudya.

Asked by committee chairperson Tendai Biti in whose name these planes were, Mangudya said the planes are owned by Air Zimbabwe’s name.

“The planes are in the name of Air Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Airlines was just a shelf company. We feared that we could lose the planes due to debt,” added the apex bank boss.

Matiza confirmed to in an interview on Saturday that the planes had been cleared by a Malaysian firm and would arrive in the country before year-end.