Govt appeals to KLM

ECONOMIC Planning and Investment Promotion minister Tapiwa Mashakada has appealed to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to partner with debt-ridden national carrier Air Zimbabwe as the airline struggles to court a strategic partner.

Report by Bernard Mpofu

Speaking at a breakfast meeting to mark the launch of KLM flights to Zimbabwe in 13 years, Mashakada yesterday said the government was ready to relinquish 74% to a new investor in a bid to save the airline.

Air Zimbabwe, which has been struggling to service domestic, regional and international debts, has debts in excess of $150 million.

“We are desperately looking for strategic partners to take the equity in Air Zimbabwe. As the government, we have said (you can see where our flexibility is) we are prepared to remain with 26% equity and then the strategic partner has the rest,” Mashakada said.

“So, KLM what are you waiting for? Will you please be our strategic partner so that we can fly Air Zimbabwe together. Air Zimbabwe is one of the airlines in Africa with a very high safety record because we have very good pilots and engineers.”

Mashakada said the new strategic partner would have full government support even though they may exceed foreign investor threshold under the country’s equity laws.

Foreign investors should not exceed 51% under the country’s indigenisation and empowerment laws. But he said the government, which has a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement with the Dutch government, would not expropriate assets owned by foreign investors operating in Zimbabwe.

A group of Dutch farmers lost land to the government under the controversial land reform programme between 2000 and 2002 is currently seeking compensation.

“I want to assure investors that the indigenisation law is there, but you must not be scared of it. It is not a new law in Africa or indeed in the world. It is a flexible law. We are doing something to make it investor friendly,” Mashakada said.

KLM executive vice-president in charge of marketing, revenue management and network, Pieter Bootsma, said the airline was ready to partner Air Zimbabwe once it resumes operations.

“Our African network is built to a larger extent in partnership with Kenya Airways . . . If Air Zimbabwe is back in the air, we would be ready to co-operate,” Bootsma said.

“We are ready to find synergies between our two airlines and to see how we can grow the markets jointly. We believe in strategic partnerships, connections as well  as friendships.”

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said renewed interest of airlines flying into Zimbabwe was in line with the government’s open sky policy. He said tourism arrivals were expected to breach the one billion mark in December amid indications that Air Zimbabwe would next month resume  regional flights.

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  1. What a wasted breath; I cannot see this happening, as KLM is owned by Air France anyway. They have their own problems. Why not ‘look East’? [It obviously doesn’t work!

  2. Bright Mukahanana

    Sometimes what we talk in public damages our image but at times reveals our material state of absurd incomprehensible ignorance of the institutions we are supposed to run. VaMashakada you need to do some homework before talking in the public about some ideas that the nation thinks should be within reach of your intuitional intellect not even academic capability intuition.

    The three natural aviation hubs in Africa are Cairo, Nairobi and Johannesburg. KLM is partner in the SKY Team Alliance one of the three major commercial aviation alliances in the world. KLM already flies very large planes B747 into Nairobi and Johannesburg. Kenya airway is partly owned by KLM by 1995 KLM had 26.73% shares in Kenya airways, So Kenya airways is a member of the Sky team. Kenya airways transacts Flights through out southern and central Africa. KLM has a joint venture arrangement with Comair of South Africa. So in reality KLM through Comair and Kenya airways it has access to the two major regional hubs Nairobi and Johannesburg. Harare serve as the bypass hub of the two hubs. Airlines choosing to fly out of Harare to Europe , Middle East and Asia recognize that Harare is a strategic bypass hub of choice to avoid the hustle and bustle of Nairobi and Johannesburg. Kenya airways and Comair are very stable African airlines. Therefore what value or leverage would KLM get by going into a joint venture with Air Zimbabwe? It is in reality in the best interest for KLM to see Air Zimbabwe obliterated from the aviation map and have their feeder airlines Kenya and Comair feed KLM long haul flights out of the hubs of Johannesburg and Nairobi into Europe.

    I am quite astonished that a minister of economic planning and investment did not have simple aviation intelligent information to steer clear of such rant as to invite KLM for partnership with an airline that KLM wishes it disappears from the aviation MAP. It would have been best to welcome back KLM and hope that the down stream industry that relies on aviation activities would benefit. The invitation to KLM by the minister is misguided and actually defines Air Zimbabwe as a desperate dying horse in permanent comatose.

    Air Zimbabwe is capable of rising from the comatose condition only if the aviation technocrats are allowed to inform, develop and implement strategies that will allow air Zimbabwe and unique partners that want to exploit the niche markets of African aviation to do so. Air Zimbabwe for years has survived by feeling in niche markets. Air Zimbabwe does not need a partner to do the flag carrier’s golden route to London, Dubai had picked up and see what Emirates has turned it into. China was exploding Singapore was growing but interference killed all this. These niche markets require pragmatic none traditional partners such as Virgin airlines. Emirates is averse of partners but has made great success, yes they have oil and have created there robust networks. Zimbabwe can create a smaller version of that out of the African continent.

    Minister you need to think outside the box and remove textbook limitations. I truly believe with the right people driving Air Zimbabwe and with no interferences, that Great African Aviation Beast (Air Zimbabwe) can raise again. Zimbabwe will remain marginalized by its own fears and lack of originality in business development.

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