Transport minister Joram Gumbo says the lawyers who were appointed as directors of Zimbabwe Airways and Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC) were involved in negotiations with creditors who were threatening to seize planes purchased from Malaysia.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
In an interview with NewsDay on Wednesday, Gumbo contradicted what he told this publication earlier this week that directors of the two companies were from government.
“If you are talking about Zimbabwe Leasing Aviation Company, we have stated every time, I do not know what is the interest, that it has got lawyers in it who some of them are local and some of them not local and I have used the word diaspora so there is nothing which is amiss on that one. The one that you are talking about, they are from the Philips law firm, who we were working with purchasing the aeroplanes because of the snag that we have explained over and over again and the media has tried to mislead people in what is not correct,” he said.
“The correct position is that when we were discussing to buy the planes for Air Zimbabwe, we hit a snag, whereby there was a threat from the debtors who were threatening to impound those planes from us. That is when those lawyers, who were negotiating with us, were roped in to form what was called the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company.
“And we kept that as a secret because if we had not kept it as a secret, then those we owed money would have impounded the planes. But now that there is a new political dispensation and now that threat is over, we disclosed what has happened. So there is no issue to talk about.”
In an earlier interview that appeared in this paper on Wednesday, Gumbo said the directors for ZALC were officials from the Transport ministry, while central bank governor John Mangudya was a trustee.
He said it was the same arrangement with Zimbabwe Airways.
But in documents seen by NewsDay, Zimbabwe Airways appointed Mufaro Eric Gumbie and Anne Farirayi Mutswiri as directors on January 1, 2017.
Gumbie serves as the principal director in the Transport ministry.
One of the appointees replaced the company’s director, Andrew Ndaamunhu Bvumbe, who together with Angeline Karonga were the original directors when the company was formed on April 20, 2012.
Bvumbe was previously head of the Aid and Debt Management Office at the Finance ministry, but resigned after getting a job at the World Bank.
While Gumbie and Karonga are government officials, Mutswiri is not and he currently serves as an administrator at Matsikidze and Mucheche Law Chambers.
According to Gumbo, Zimbabwe Airways was formed to look for a partner on behalf of Air Zimbabwe.
Government found a partner in Malaysia and sent a letter of intent dated October 16, 2016 to Malaysian Airline System Berhad for the supply of four planes.
Yet according to the schedule of the arrangement, the planes were to be operated by Air Zimbabwe and not Zimbabwe Airways.
Before the deal could be completed, on June 22, 2017, ZALC was registered to finalise the deal with Malaysian Airline System Berhad.
This saw Phillipa Phillips, a founding partner at Phillips Law firm, and former head of finance at Cottco Holdings Limited, Dacyl-Ray Rambanepasi, being appointed directors.
Rambanepasi resigned as director of ZALC in a meeting held on January 15, 2018 and was replaced by Itai Gift Watinaye, who is group governance and legal counsel at Pacific Cigarette Company.
Last week, government received a Boeing 777 plane it purchased from Malaysia.
It said the plane was owned by ZALC, but would be leased to Zimbabwe Airways. It said the planes would be transferred to Air Zimbabwe when the airline submits a credible growth plan.