The arrogance exhibited by board chairman, Jonathan Kadzura towards striking pilots is reminiscent of the behaviour of a father who has failed to provide for his family but thunders with anger when challenged to at least put a morsel of food on the table.
As board chairman, Kadzura, together with other executives at the airline, should shoulder the blame for the near collapse of Air Zimbabwe as they are responsible for decisions that account for its failure to make hay in a market where it enjoys a virtual monopoly. Anybody would have seen the problems coming because Air Zimbabwe does not have a history of excellence in corporate governance. Examples abound, but one thing that is clear is that management has failed to consistently make business decisions that grow the value of the airline at a time when national airlines elsewhere in the region are the mainstay of the economy. For example, South African Airways recorded a pre-tax profit of R581 million, 44, 5% more than the previous year. Management at Air Zimbabwe might be tempted to hide behind the economic malaise that has reduced the country to a basket case but the real problems are there for everyone to see: lack of strategic planning, mismanagement, political interference and patronage, corruption, uneconomic flights and the high incidence of senior government officials who divert planes from commercial routes. It is no wonder that Air Zimbabwe is one of 10 companies that have been listed for attention by the 13-member ministerial committee that is to give advice to government on whether parastatals should be hived off or restructured.
It is easy to see a speck in other people’s eyes but perhaps this is the time for the leadership at the airline to remove the log in its own eye before trying to use pilots as scapegoats. As if to confirm the poor leadership, the board and management have dragged their heels on dealing with the pilots’ grievances, to the extent that they have even told the airmen to go to hell, as if they could be replaced with kombi drivers! Meanwhile, the airline is reportedly losing US$500 000 per day. Are the pilots asking for a pay rise? No! They are asking for the payment of outstanding allowances which are part of their contracts. It stands to reason that even if their strike drags on forever, the allowances would still be due. So why let the airline lose so much revenue when the panacea is to find an amicable settlement. The dearth of leadership in parastatals, triggered by the appointment of people on the basis of political patronage instead of competence in specific areas, threatens to ruin the economy because these state utilities continue to milk the fiscus when critical areas such as health care cry out for funding. It is time that the responsible line ministry took action to end the rot that has turned parastatals into little fiefdoms.
Air Zimbabwe management must be forced to produce their financials and strategic plans that will turn the business into a profit-making venture, in line with the national vision of economic recovery. Those that find the kitchen too hot must quickly move out and those mandated with superintending over public enterprises must read the riot act.