Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Tapiwa Mashakada says it was premature to applaud the influx of foreign airlines in the country, as long as the national carrier was still grounded.
Report by Nqobile Bhebhe
Mashakada said the ailing Air Zimbabwe should be urgently resuscitated to boost tourism in readiness to co-host the United National World Tourism Organisation conference next year.
Speaking in Victoria Falls last Friday during a 2012 pre-Budget seminar for legislators, the minister said the 15 airlines that had returned to Zimbabwe fell short to the Medium-Term Plan (MTP) targets which envisaged 30.
“We cannot be celebrating the arrival of other airlines to Zimbabwe when our own Air Zimbabwe is not in the skies,” said Mashakada.
“Our target of 30 airlines under MTP has not been met, but the current 15 seems to be a step in the right direction, but Air Zimbabwe should start operating.” Last week, the Royal Dutch Airlines KLM and LAM of Mozambique became the latest airliners to fly to Zimbabwe. KLM stopped flying to Zimbabwe 13 years ago.
Most international airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa and Qantas, pulled out of Zimbabwe over the past decade citing dwindling passenger numbers as tourists were scared off by political violence.
Flag carrier AirZim has in recent months downsized because of frequent strikes and huge debts as the company tries to maintain an ageing fleet.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion chairperson Paddy Zhanda said AirZim should not be revived just for sentimental reasons.
“Is the State eager to revive Air Zimbabwe for the sentimental value or for the sake of providing proper service to customers? A strategic partner should be urgently sought,” said Zhanda.