By Staff Reporter
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has told Parliament that the struggling national carrier Air Zimbabwe will take-off in 2020 and will be having about 4 aircraft.
Air Zimbabwe is currently operating one aircraft which is said to be old and is constantly breaking down forcing the airline to cancel or delay flights.
Apart from lacking aircraft, Air Zimbabwe is currently saddled with a huge debt coupled with high employment costs due to its huge number of workers among many other challenges.
Answering a question during a 2020 budget debate in the National Assembly Minister Mthuli said some of the 4 aircraft are already in the country while others are on their way.
“Again on Air Zimbabwe, we are expecting basically four aircraft. We have the two from Malaysia that we have paid for. The Ministry of Transport and infrastructural Development has indicated that they are likely to be in the country by the end of the year.
“Then, we have the one that is already here internally, the big one. Then the fourth one is the Embraer that was brought into the country a few months ago. So, four aircraft in total and I told that there is maybe another one that we could lease from a neighbouring country which is somewhere in Africa.
“So five aircraft is quite a bit to really kick start Air Zimbabwe. One sense is that the strategy really is to get the equipment in place – that is four or five planes in place in the country and begin to then re-launch Air Zimbabwe from there,” he said.
According to the minister, the intention is to ensure that Air Zimbabwe’s operations are commercial enough adding that “so, I am hopeful that Air Zimbabwe will take off in earnest in 2020.”
Legislators are of the view that the government should take over Air Zimbabwe debt so that the carrier can attract much-needed investors.
Glen View North legislator Kennedy Dinar said “My appeal is Government should indeed take over the debt of Air Zimbabwe to allow investors to come in and invest. If we do not do that we will remain with one airline.
“Beginning of the year, we had around nine hundred employees. Now maybe, of course, we have around seven hundred employees but we cannot have seven hundred and something employees manning just one aeroplane.
“So my small or big appeal is to say, can we have that debt taken over by Government as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Kambuzuma legislator Willias Madzimure concurred with Honourable Dinar adding that it does not make sense to have many people manning one aircraft.
“As far as Air Zimbabwe is concerned Minister, it is either we improve on the fleet or we cut down on the complement that we have at Air Zimbabwe.
“It does not make sense for us to maintain the level of the general manager, chief engineer and all other posts. We are simply milking the fiscus whilst we are providing nothing,” he said.
In his response Minister Ncube revealed that the issue of Air Zimbabwe debt assumption is currently being considered.
“On the debt assumption for Air Zimbabwe, that is currently under consideration. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has written to us with the support of the company and we are debating it to see how best to do it,” he said.–