Govt extends Air Zimbabwe duty rebate

GOVERNMENT has extended duty-free importation of Air Zimbabwe’s engine spares and components in a desperate effort to revive the flagship carrier.

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

The debt-ridden State-owned airline was placed under the administration of Grant Thornton with effect from October 4, 2018 in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act.

Through an extra-ordinary Statutory Instrument (SI) 189 of 2020 dated April 14, 2020, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the duty rebate was covering the period from January 2020 to December 2021.

Last year, Treasury did the same exercise as a way of breathing new life into the struggling airline.

On Tuesday, Air Zimbabwe announced that the national airline’s B777-200ER REG flew to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, for special mandatory periodic maintenance which could not be carried out in Harare owing to unavailability of special maintenance equipment.

“The national airline has licensed engineers on contract from Asia AeroTechnic of Malaysia, but the maintenance tasks could not be completed successfully due to the required conformance standards at Harare in the absence of rigs and test equipment,” the airline said in a statement.

Air Zimbabwe said maintenance tasks were key in ensuring that the aircraft remains serviceable in line with the ongoing process of dry leasing it.

“Discussions and negotiations are at an advanced stage with potential short-listed lessees and a final position will be officially communicated once an agreement has been signed hopefully in the next coming few months as we continue to monitor the effects and milestone in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic,” the airline said.

Last week, the country’s flagship carrier announced a staff rationalisation process in the wake of lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed globally to stem the spread of COVID-19, thereby grounding flights.

Air Zimbabwe revealed that the travel restrictions put in place implied no revenue inflows and that while other revenue initiatives were being pursued, staff remuneration remained one of the greatest cost drivers within the airline and that without revenue inflows, it was a challenge to continue funding salaries.

The airline’s fortunes have plummeted over the years and currently has two functional aircraft; one flying and servicing domestic and regional routes, with the other currently undergoing a C-check.

In 1980, Air Zimbabwe had 18 aircraft flying into 31 destinations, but is now limited to Harare-Johannesburg, Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes.

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