BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
AIR Zimbabwe’s proposal to wet lease Malaysia Airlines planes is in limbo despite senior government officials and the national carrier’s senior executives frequent sojourns into the Far East country to wrap up the deal, as it emerges financing is the major handicap.
The beleaguered national airline has over the past six months been holding meetings with their Malaysian counterparts to lease four Boeing 777-200ER planes.
A wet lease is a leasing arrangement, whereby, one airline (the lessor) provides an aircraft, complete crew, maintenance, and insurance to another airline or other type of business acting as a broker of air travel (the lessee), which pays by hours operated.
A source close to the developments said the deal could be as good as dead over lack of finances to pull it off.
“Most of the groundwork had been done and what was left was Air Zimbabwe to pay to activate the lease but the airline does not have the money and the shareholder (government) for now has no capacity,” the source said.
In June this year, pictures of the Malaysian Airlines rebranded in Air Zimbabwe’s livery went viral when the deal seemed imminent and Zimbabwe had a pay out of $1 billion.
AirZim board chairperson, Chipo Dyanda could not comment on the issue, referring questions to Transport minister Joram Gumbo.
“Ask the minister about the issue. He is dealing with it,” she said.
However, Gumbo was non-committal on developments.
“I am not aware of that. It’s news to me,” he said in a curt SMS.
Gumbo was recently quoted claiming the deal had nothing to do with Air Zimbabwe, but private players.
The deal seemed to have President Robert Mugabe’s blessings and Gumbo in the recent past has shuttled to the Far East to negotiate the agreement.
The airline last month laid off 200 employees, as it restructures to make itself attractive to new investors.
The workers laid off were from across all the departments and are still to be paid, as the company struggles with a $300 million debt.
Gumbo said he will ask the government to assume the national airline’s debt so that it can start on a clean slate.