PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore, has been appointed Air Zimbabwe chief operating officer (COO), effectively becoming second-in-command at the ailing national airline.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Not much is known of Chikore or his credentials although he reportedly has an aviation industry background. Chikore married Mugabe’s daughter, Bona in March 2014.
AirZim board chairperson Chipo Dyanda confirmed Chikore’s appointment yesterday.
“It’s true, Chikore is the new COO,” she said.
He joins the growing list of members of the First Family who have landed top government posts, with Mugabe’s critics saying the appointments smacked of nepotism and a sinister plot to entrench a culture of patronage.
Other close Mugabe relatives occupying top government posts include the President’s nephews Patrick Zhuwao (Indigenisation minister) and Albert Mugabe (Zinara board chairman).
Chikore’s appointment comes barely two months after the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s son, Ripton, was appointed AirZim’s chief executive officer. The appointment places Chikore at the heart of the struggling national airline.
It could not be immediately confirmed whether Chikore has the minimum 10 years’ experience in a senior managerial position, as required for the post.
Critics have accused Ripton of surrounding himself with a team of unqualified loyalists to safeguard his longevity at the institution.
Chikore’s appointment came as controversy rages over the Dema Diesel Power Plant, where his brother, Derrick, is said to have won a multi-million dollar contract without going to tender.
Opposition MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu said: “This is an extremely sad development. It proves that the State has been privatised. It is now being controlled by a Mugabe dynasty.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume described Chikore’s elevation as “a bad joke”.
“It is yet, but one sign that we are a kangaroo republic,” he said.
“The young man has no experience of running anything in his life, he has not even run a chicken run. To expect him to be in charge of a national airline, as COO, would have been a good April Fools’ Day joke and yet we are in October.”
Zimbabwe People First spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire said: “We understand that Chikore has never been the most senior of pilots at AirZim or Qatar Airways where he worked. The fact that he left Qatar Aiways to take a supervisory job at Alpha and Omega does not speak of an individual who envisaged professional growth within the aviation industry and there are many captains at AirZim, his seniors, who are better qualified for the job, who would naturally feel cheated by this blatant nepotism by the Mugabe administration. It is sad that Mugabe is appointing his relatives into government and State-run companies with reckless abandon,” he said.
AirZim is saddled with a $300 million debt and is only running with four planes to service domestic routes and three regional destinations after pulling out of all international routes for fear of having its planes attached over outstanding debts.
The national airline has since applied to the Transport and Infrastructure Development ministry seeking to have its debt taken over by the State.
AirZim is also seeking government’s approval to enter into negotiations with strategic partners to expand its destination network and revamp its operations.
The national carrier is on the market for several executives, among them finance, flight operations, maintenance, corporate services, corporate quality, safety and security, airlines systems and administration managers.