MASVINGO — Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has described the perennial strikes by Air Zimbabwe pilots as “the latest chronic disabler of tourism in the country”.
The national airline suspended weekend flights after its pilots downed tools for the fourth time since January over non-payment of their outstanding salaries.
In a telephone interview, Mzembi said the industrial action had crippled the destination accessibility of Zimbabwe.
“The strike is the latest chronic disabler of tourism in the country and is making the destination inaccessible. A successful tourism product is anchored on a very viable air and road transport system.
“Air Zimbabwe, our national carrier, should be anchoring tourism in Zimbabwe, just like other national airlines in neighbouring countries, like the South African and Kenyan airlines,” Mzembi said
“The situation is now a national tragedy to which any responsible government cannot to continue to be an audience in the melodrama that is ensuing. The airline needs drastic surgery for it is in the intensive care unit.
“The strike is not only hurting tourism, but also impacting negatively on other facets of the economy. It is not only doing a disservice to tourism, but to other sectors.”
In April, the Transport ministry gave the national airline a $3,8 million lifeline, but it seems like it was a drop in the ocean.
Mzembi said if the situation persists, Zimbabwe will be taken back to the Stone Age where accessing the country took longer than usual through other modes of transport, excluding air.
“Viability assessments at the airline should be done with due diligence to see if we cannot park its liabilities away by archiving out Air Zim, the shelf company, together with the little goodwill that remains in it and offer this to a potential investor-cum-strategic partner,” Mzembi said.
Commenting on the obsolete and ageing planes owned by Air Zimbabwe, the Tourism minister said the airline can profitably operate on leased aeroplanes or should code-share with neighbouring viable airlines.
Zimbabwe projects a 12% contribution to the GDP from tourism by year-end while it also targets five million tourist arrivals in the country by 2015 following a slump in the past decade due to the country’s political and economic meltdown.