TRANSPORT and Infrastructure Development minister Joram Gumbo has defended the struggling national carrier Air Zimbabwe, claiming it is one of the best run airlines while vowing it will never be closed.
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Gumbo said this after Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese sought an explanation during the 2018 pre-budget meeting in Victoria Falls at the weekend over why AirZim continued operating yet it was clear that it was teetering on the verge of collapse and failing to attract investors.
“As you have presented, minister, it is clear that AirZim has failed, but we have been going round in circles and no one knows what is really happening,” Gonese said.
“You have said that you have tried your best but it is failing yet the money keeps being withdrawn from the fiscus and you cannot attract partners. I therefore suggest that it gets grounded. Are you keeping it for status or sovereignty? So let us dispose of it completely and have some private planes operate domestic, regional and international routes.”
But Gumbo said MPs were being misinformed by the media, insisting AirZim was the best airline considering that it was a non-profit airline.
“What I will tell you is the correct information, not what you read from newspapers. First and foremost, all airlines are not making money,” he claimed.
“They are all insolvent. It doesn’t matter which one you want to talk about and I tell you that AirZim has done very well under the conditions that we have been operating, it is a miracle that we are still in the sky yet others are not doing well.”
Gumbo claimed national airlines were never meant to make any profit.
“They are there to promote tourism and business. So on their own they don’t make money. In South Africa their government has given them R20 million in order to remain in the sky and my job is to ensure that we remain flying too,” he said.
Gumbo admitted that efforts to get investors had been unfruitful.
“We have tried to look for investors. I went to Malaysia after their invite but I failed because we did not have money and I could not produce attractive books. But them too, have some (planes) which are grounded but we will continue searching and engaging with our diasporan people to invest home,” he said.
Gumbo defended President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law and AirZim acting chief executive officer Simba Chikore over allegations that he was unsuitable for the job.
“He is my employee and AirZim failures have nothing to do with him. I was never told that who so ever is related to the First Family must not be employed. I employed him on merit. You can accuse me, yes, but the guy is brilliant and has many years of experience with airlines after attaining degrees in America,” he said.