TRANSPORT minister Jorum Gumbo and his Finance counterpart Patrick Chinamasa have been stopped dead in their tracks by exposure of their self-enriching plan to shut down flag carrier Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) to pave way for the controversial Zimbabwe Airways (ZimAirways) linked to Gumbo and former president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, it has been established.
By Bernard Mpofu
This comes as more information filtered through this week showing that ZimAirways was firmly under the control of Simba Chikore who is married Mugabe’s daughter Bona. It has also emerged that the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC)’s offices are located at 1426 Gletwyn in Harare, a property linked to Psmas manager Mavis Gumbo, although she denies any connection to the airline. Mavis is related to the minister.
The ministers and government officials have been contradicting themselves in private and public platforms as they scrambled to obfuscate and cover up the relationship between AirZim and ZimAirways.
This has left authorities and the public to conclude the ministers had a vested interest in the deal.
During last week’s ceremony to receive a Boeing 777 from Malaysia, Chinamasa and Gumbo failed to adequately explain the situation, only kicking dust and provoking more questions than answers.
Gumbo also failed to explain why former AirZim board member Ray Rambanepasi, who is linked to Chikore, resigned to get involved with ZimAirways. He stepped down from AirZim in March.
Rambanepasi is cited in official documents as one of ZALC directors together with Harare lawyer Phillipa Phillips. Apart from Rambanepasi, questions have been asked why AirZim senior managers, who include Martin Gwafa in charge of the airline’s technical services, have been involved in setting up ZimAirways while still employed by AirZim.
Company registration documents show ZALC was formed June 2017, five years after ZimAirways was incorporated. On August 17 last year, government and ZALC entered into an agreement to buy four Boeing 777-200 aircraft from Malaysia Airlines.
Information gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent shows these were the same planes that government had intended to buy for the state-owned airline.
Documents gleaned by the Independent and investigations show in October 2016 government entered into an agreement with the Malaysian Airline System Berha for the sale and purchase of four Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with manufacturer’s serial numbers 29065, 29066, 28421 and 28422.
The agreement was signed by Gumbo and former Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa – who is related to Chikore through the Mugabe family – on October 10, 2016.
Government later resolved to buy two Embraers for US$6 million using Treasury Bills. This brought the total cost of the revised deal to US$41 million.
Sources said while Gumbo has been ordered to make sure that AirZim does not collapse, behind-the-scenes he has been working with ZimAirways, which he last week claimed is a state-owned airline after a series of contradictions on its ownership, to equip it and give it lucrative routes to destroy AirZim.
Aviation sources this week said while government would push to ensure that ZimAirways takes to the skies in shortest period possible, the airline was likely to take nearly a year before it is fully operational due to registration requirements and international regulations. Its association with AirZim as a proxy for the state airline, as officials claimed, could kill it off.
Chinamasa and Gumbo at the delivery of the Boeing 777-200 last week claimed government would only lease out the “new” planes once AirZim has revival strategy.
However AirZim has a new 64-page document, titled AirZim Strategic Turnaround Plan (2018-2020) seen by the Independent, which outlines its strategy to come out of the doldrums, as well as opportunities and threats to the business.
“I am happy, therefore, to advise the nation that the road map for Air Zimbabwe for the next three years to revive and sustain the viability of the Airline is now in place. I have no doubt the board, management and employees are all committed to move this process forward. Government, as the shareholder, stands ready to support their efforts.
“I therefore wish them well in their implementation of this strategic turnaround plan,” Gumbo wrote in the document even though he insists AirZim has no viable plan.
Apart from this strategy, it has also been established that government has rejected several proposals from various potential investors seeking to partner the troubled airline.
AirZim suitors include Zimbabwe Airlines, a special purpose vehicle which involved Daralis Commerce (Pvt) Ltd. A proposal dated April 11, written by the airline’s chief executive Collen Kwaramba, says: “Upon its inception, Zimbabwe Airlines will immediately own the following four aircrafts for it to commence flight; two Embraer ERJ 145 commercial passenger aircrafts, one Aerospace Gulfstream III business jet and one Challenger 605 business jet.”
In March, AirZim attempted to lease its new planes to a company in Benin. Sources said government has now hijacked this plan and will lease the recently acquired Boeing 777-200 to the same company, suggesting AirZim and ZimAirways are not working towards a common goal.