GWERU — Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi has criticised “elements in government” for obstructing the bailout of troubled Air Zimbabwe, saying their actions will adversely affect the tourism industry in the country.
Report by Blessed Mhlanga/Rutendo Mawere
Mzembi told journalists in Gweru on Wednesday that the airline was a critical component of the revival of the country’s tourism sector. For the sector to flourish, he said, the government should play its supporting role.
“Let me say of the 980 million arrivals recorded in global tourism in 2011, 51% arrived by air, which means a reliable national airliner cannot be discounted and, therefore, the government should play its part in subsidising Air Zimbabwe,” the Tourism minister said.
Mzembi, who pledged to keep his “mouth shut” over the problems bedevilling the national carrier, however, said he was not happy with the wrangling on whether the government should bail the ailing national airline out or not.
“There are other elements in the inclusive government who are complaining about expenditure towards Air Zimbabwe . . . $50 million to bail the national airliner out is nothing compared to the benefits it brings to tourism and the economy,” he said.
Mzembi cited the example of South Africa where the national airliner’s board resigned in protest over government’s failure to fund operations of the loss-making South African Airways.
He also said the government was looking at various options to save Air Zim, which included finding a suitable investor to partner the government or to go back into history and have a national carrier which will service the entire Southern Africa region.