LUSAKA, June 22 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s government has approved plans for debt-ridden national carrier Air Zimbabwe to engage a strategic partner, transport minister Obert Mpofu said on Monday, as the airline resumed flights to neighbouring Zambia to expand its regional network.
The airline, which once ceased operations between 2011 and 2012 due to viability problems, requires $770 million to procure new aircraft and $298 million to service both its domestic and foreign debts. The debt emanated from navigation, landing, handling fees, fuel supplies, salary arrears and rentals.
Government has agreed to take over the debts to allow the airline and its technical partner to start on a clean slate.
“Recently Cabinet has approved that a strategic partner be engaged as part of Air Zimbabwe’s turnaround strategy,” transport minister, Obert Mpofu, said during the re-launch of Air Zimbabwe flights to Lusaka for the first time since 2011.
It will compete with Emirates and Ethiopian airlines which has been servicing the route. In addition to Harare-Lusaka route, Air Zimbabwe also flies to Johannesburg from Harare and Bulawayo, among its more lucrative routes.
“Although government will continue rendering its support, the airline is at the same time expected to begin working towards self-sustenance through strategic alliances and maximum utilisation of equipment. We are very pleased with the re-launch of the Harare-Lusaka route and look forward to the national airline going back to some lucrative international routes. Government stands ready to support you and the air transport industry in general,” said Mpofu.
Air Zimbabwe currently operates five aircraft – two Boeing 767, one Boeing 737, one MA60 and an Airbus A320 which it recently acquired on lease from Angola’s Sonangol.
Last December Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Edmund Makona, said the airline expects to double its total passenger traffic to 365,000 this year.