A FORTNIGHT ago, the CEO of Air Zimbabwe, Dr Peter Chikumba, addressed a parliamentary committee, unreservedly and very frankly disclosing the extremely constrained financial circumstances of the national airline.
With equally great transparency, he unhesitatingly made known many of the other major limitations confronting the airline and the vigorous endeavours of Chikumba and his management team to enhance its operations and establish ongoing viability.
His unequivocal disclosure of the airlineâ€™s parlous financial state, and of the magnitudeÂ of the prevailing hindrancesÂ to viable operations, were irrefutable evidence of the indisputable justification of the recognition given to him in recent months by the Zimbabwe Institute of Management, and the Zimbabwean Tourism Authority, as a foremost ZimbabweanÂ public sector executive.
In like manner, recognition should have been accorded him, and his management team, by way of commendation and support, for being so unhesitatingly open and devoid of evasiveness in his presentation to the parliamentary committee.
However, a national daily newspaperâ€™s editor clearly has a view diametrically opposite to that, for on Wednesday last week that newspaperâ€™s editorial was naught but a scathing attack upon the airline. That editorial suggested that â€œastute management would have taken Air Zimbabwe out of the woodsâ€¦â€¦.â€, and suggested that the recurrent changes by government of the airlineâ€™s chief executive was in order â€œto find someone who can manage the airline properlyâ€.
This damning diatribe against Air Zimbabweâ€™s management, and in particular against those presently in office, is unfounded and unjust in the extreme.
I do not seek to fulfill the role of apologist for Air Zimbabwe and its management, and have unhesitatingly criticised the airline, in this column and elsewhere, when I considered such criticism justified.Â
However, as unhesitatingly as one should voice criticism when due, so should one commend when commendation is due, and stand up against unfair, and prejudiced and partisan outpourings.
The condemnatory editorial contends that â€œGovernment has battled for years to make Air Zimbabwe a success.â€
The reality is diametrically the opposite.Â In all probability, no other airline servicing national, regional and international routes is as under-capitalisedÂ as Air Zimbabwe has always been,Â wheresoever in the world such airlines are situate.
Air Zimbabwe has never provided the requisite equity capital to fund an effective fleet of aircraft, to fund the engineering, administration, marketing and other necessary support infrastructures, and to finance operational working capital requirements.Â
Instead, one government after another has required the airline to fund its needs by recourse to borrowings and access to credit. This, on the one hand, burdened it â€“â€“ for many years â€“â€“ with. excessively great, unsustainable, finance charges and, on the other hand, precluded its accessing the aircraft required for wholly effective and profitable operations.
The condemnatory editorial in last weekâ€™s daily misleadingly states that government has backed the airline by supplying it with appropriate aircraft.
The mind boggles at this contention, for the airlineâ€™s entire fleet comprises two Boeing 767 aircraft which are over 22 years old, three Boeing 737 aircraft which are more than 19 years old, and 3 MA60 aircraft, purchased from China, the entire liability for payment for those aircraft being borne by the undercapitalised airline (with some of the purchase price yet to be paid).
Government has neither supplied the airline with any aircraft, nor has it provided any substantive funding for aircraft. Five of the airlineâ€™s minimal fleet are extremely aged, wi