The crisis at Air Zimbabwe is emblematic of pathetic longstanding mismanagement. In 1980, the national passenger carrier had about 15 planes, but today, there is hardly any plane to talk of.
And news that over 200 Air Zimbabwe passengers are stranded in China after the national carrier’s pilots downed tools made grim reading, and does not cast the nation in good light in the eyes of the world.
The AirZim crisis has been going on for far too long now and the need for a lasting solution can never be over-emphasised.
The ills afflicting the national airline are basically symptomatic of the decay that has crept into nearly all parastatals, most of which are now a deadweight on a government that clearly lacks the capacity to resuscitate them alone.
The Ziscosteel saga has clearly shown that the need to attract investors cannot be wished away, but is probably the only option at the moment if life is to be re-injected in parastatals such as AirZim. The faster that is done, the better.
If something is not done, the parastatal will continue to bleed as it now has to finance the upkeep of passengers who are held up in China due to the industrial action while at the same time failing to pay the pilots. Lessons must be drawn from the Ziscosteel saga. The situation must not be allowed to deteriorate before interventions are made.
The fact that this is the second time in a month that it is happening should serve as warning shots to stakeholders, especially the powers-that-be, that it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee instead of sitting on their laurels hoping God would wave a magic wand and all pieces will fall into place.
The tragedy is that this situation will seriously mar the reputation of the airline, and this may contribute to significant loss of business.
We believe that if government was really serious about resolving this crisis, then interventions would have been made given the number of strikes that have been recorded at the airline.
Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche told Parliament Air Zimbabwe had an unflattering balance sheet.
These are the same excuses that have been peddled for a long time, but what is needed now is a plan of action to get things moving and get Air Zimbabwe out of the doldrums.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi last week described the perennial strikes at the national airline as “the latest chronic disabler of tourism in the country”.
What must be understood is that the strike is not only hurting tourism, but also impacting negatively on other facets of the economy. Despite a $3,8 million lifeline by the Ministry of Transport in April, the national airline has failed to turn the corner, but it seems the money was just a drop in the ocean.
In view of the recurrent challenges obtaining at the national airline and the given the poor cash position of the inclusive government, it will be in the best interests of the travelling public to privatise the parastatal.
With a ballooning debt that has reached over $100 million as the airline continues to default on debt payments and picks up new bills from service providers, the situation if left unattended for too long, could have a serious effect on the airline and national pride.