By Ruth Ngwenya, HARARE, 21 October (The Source) – Air Zimbabwe’s newly appointed chief executive says the airline needs to pay up creditors to avoid risk of having its planes impounded in foreign countries.
The national airline has continued to struggle, incurring consecutive losses and relying on treasury for support. It currently has a debt of $330 million.
In 2011, Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 737-500 was impounded in South Africa after failing to settle a $500,000 debt owed to Bid Air Services for handling services. Its largest aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 was seized by American General Supplies in London over a of $1,2 million debt in the same year.
The plane was later released after the airline paid the debt, but Air Zimbabwe stopped flying to London, one of its most lucrative routes, since then.
In the same year a French court granted the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) a ruling to impound Air Zimbabwe’s airplanes to recover debts.
Air Zimbabwe was kicked out of International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s flight reservation services in 2012 after failing to honor its obligations — which now stood at $3,4 million — a development which resulted in limited business, said chief executive, Ripton Muzenda.
Muzenda, who was appointed the airline’s chief executive in August, told a pre-budget meeting that the airline still risked having its aircraft impounded because of the debts.
“Investment in the fleet and liquidation of current creditors is a priority …it is essential that before we commence international operations, we remove the threat of the aircraft being impounded by the creditors,” he said.
Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development Dexter Nduna said government should withdraw its protection of the airline.
Last year President Robert Mugabe, a frequent flyer with Air Zimbabwe, signed a law which gave the air line immunity from attachment and execution of its properties.
“We expect Air Zimbabwe to show their full potential and pay their creditors as they have a new and vibrant management team. They should give us a serious payment plan so that domestic suppliers do not sink while trying to protect them,” said Nduna.
In addition to Muzenda, Air Zimbabwe this month appointed President Robert Mugabe’s son- in-law, Simba Chikore, to a newly created post of chief operating officer.
Chikore married Mugabe’s only daughter, Bona, in March 2014.