Air Zimbabwe Grounded Intermittently
- From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
Basket-Case Country Has A Basket-Case Airline
Consider Air Zimbabwe. No, not for a trip -- we value our readers. Just
*think* about Air Zim for a minute. Some flag carriers seem to
instantiate their nation's character, and some (like, for instance,
bankrupt Swissair) seem to contradict it. Air Zimbabwe is one of the
former: a perfect projection of the dysfunctional Robert Mugabe regime
into the aviation world -- it does everything wrong and still seems to
The latest word from the flag carrier of the onetime "Switzerland of
Africa" is that it's flat broke and can't buy fuel. It has long since
exhausted the good credit it began with 25 years ago as the successor to
Air Rhodesia; even Nigerian spammers aren't sending email to Air
ZImbabwe's offices any more.
The seven jets of Air Zimbabwe have spent more than one day in the last
few weeks sitting on the ramp at Harare, with flights to all destinations
cancelled. The terminal is reported to be teeming with angry passengers
-- or perhaps we should say, would-be passengers.
A Johannesburg, South Africa paper quoted a statement from Air Zimbabwe
Vice-Chairman Jonathan Kadzura: "The board would like to sincerely
apologize to all its valued customers for the inconveniences."
Some flights have resumed, using fuel from the Zimbabwe Air Force, but
that force does not have sufficient stocks to sustain the airline for
more than a day or two, even at the expense of all it holds. Other fuel
is only available for cash in advance, due to the firm's habitual
non-payment of bills.
Air Zimbabwe pays its flight crews in US Dollars, cash, in London, and
has burnt enough bridges with vendors that it has to pay cash for fuel
and catering almost everywhere it goes. Air Zimbabwe planes have gone
without cleaning, catering and even maintenance at overseas airports as a
result of previous arrears.
Air Zim is in even deeper trouble than the service interruption would
indicate. It is in debt almost beyond calculation -- it owes twice as
many dollars as bankrupt Delta, but fortunately that's in
nearly-worthless Zimbabwe dollars. It hasn't been maintaining its Boeing
767-200ER jets, and hasn't been able to pay its insurance bills since
2001; the nation's civil aviation authority has been picking up the
slack. As the degree of financial mismanagement became clearer, CEO
Tendai Mahachi was summarily sacked, along with corporate secretary
It turns out that the politically-connected Mahachi was hired despite
coming in fifth of five job interviewees, and Minister of Transport
Christopher Mushohwe is now denying he had anything to do with hiring
Mahachi. he had never met Mahachi before the appointment. "I had nothing
to do with his appointment.�
The airline once was prosperous, bringing tourists from Europe to see the
wildlife and scenery of Zimbabwe, including breathtaking Victoria Falls.
But with the government on the outs with most of the civilized world, it
now prefers to fly to places that receive Perma-President Mugabe well --
a few holdout communist countries, and some Arab sheikdoms.
Yet, despite its bad reputation, and the visibly deteriorated condition
of its aircraft, Air Zim actually has a decent safety record. They have
never had a fatal or hull-loss accident, since becoming Air Zimbabwe; the
two losses they inherit were forerunner Air Rhodesia's planes, brought
down by the terrorists of Joshua Nkomo, who were purged from the Zim
government by the terrorists of Mugabe in the 1980s.
Nobody's shooting at the Air Zim planes today. Mugabe might be twice the
dictator Ian Smith was, but he's evidently a more effective dictator, at
least in security terms.
The government ministries have ordered one another to produce the fuel,
but the problem for the Zim ministries is that the fuel comes from
outside the country via multinational oil companies, and they learned
long ago that the only way to deal with Zimbabwe government entities is
Foreigners don't fly Air Zimbabwe these days, but for Zimbabweans there
may be no other choice. Every other airline flying to Harare rejects the
wildly inflated, non-convertible Zimbabwe dollar, and foreign exchange is
unavailable to ordinary people.
The Zimbabwe crisis goes far beyond the airline. The state railway has
also broken down, and fuel is unavailable to ordinary citizens. The
entire economy collapsed after President Mugabe seized commercial farms
and distributed them to political supporters or broke them up into small,
subsistence farms in 2000. The farms once produced all of the nation's
foodstuffs and almost half of its foreign exchange.
Does the FAA consider it a safe airline? They duck the issue.
"As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States
and Zimbabwe, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not
assessed Zimbabwe�s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO
international aviation safety standards."
Now, would we at Aero-News fly on Air Zim? Let's put it this way. The
only reason to fly on Air Zimbabwe is if you're going to Zimbabwe. And no
one in his right mind would leave a civilized country to go to Zimbabwe
-- the ablest Zimbabweans are going the other way, if they can.
It's a moot point anyway... they're on the ground until the government,
or South Africa, which has been providing vast humanitarian aid, kicks
them some convertible currency. Does that answer your question?
[Posted by: Regular]