MPs and government officials, including Cabinet ministers have been shunning Air Zimbabwe, top management of the struggling airline told Parliament yesterday.
This was revealed by the national airline’s general manager Moses Mapanda when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Parastatals and Enterprise Management chaired by Zvishavane Runde lawmaker Lawrence David Mavima.
The committee had asked Air Zimbabwe management to appear before it to discuss the current state of affairs at the airline and indicate the interventions undertaken by management, the board and shareholders, to come up with sustainable solutions to problems facing the beleaguered parastatal.
“Cabinet made a decision for government officials and MPs to travel using Air Zimbabwe as much as possible, but that kind of support has not been forthcoming,” said Mapanda.
“If government officials do not support their own business, how does the shareholder expect Air Zimbabwe to survive?” he asked. Mapanda said travellers in general had lost confidence in the airline and its restoration was their immediate challenge.
Acting Air Zimbabw chief exutive officer Innocent Mavhunga said 16 pilots had been sent for training for a 45-day course in preparation for new equipment as the airline braces to open a new chapter.
Mavhunga, however, failed to say when the government would bring the new equipment, prompting MPs to conclude the shareholder was the one running Air Zimbabwe and not management. Mavima said failure to give further explanations by Mavhunga fuelled suspicion the government could have plans to procure new planes, which they did not want to disclose beforehand.
Mavhunga said the airline was saddled with a $137,7 million debt, $112, 7 million of it being internal debt and $25 million external.
“We immediately require $40 million as working capital because we are operating on a cash-upfront basis with all our service providers and we need to service our creditors. We immediately need to restructure the airline, look at change management, recapitalise and inject a new fleet,” said Mavhunga.
He said out of Air Zimbabwe’s eight aeroplanes only five were flying, adding entering into a strategic alliance was imperative.