BY BRIDGET MANANAVIRE
SUSPENDED Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) chief executive David Chawota’s woes continue to mount after revelations that detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Fraud Squad have opened further investigations over allegations of criminal abuse of office and corruption against him.
This comes as Chawota languishes in remand prison after being denied bail. He is answering several corruption charges at the Harare Magistrates Court.
Police are now investigating tender irregularities associated with issuing catering licences at the airports which led to the collapse of Zanu PF-linked company Catercraft, which offered in-flight catering services. Police are also investigating Caaz’s failure to ensure in-flight kitchen facilities were provided during construction of the new-look Victoria Falls International Airport. Zimbabwe is no longer able to offer catering services to international airlines that terminate at local airports due to the incapacitation of Catercraft and corruption.
Catercraft lost all its café sites at the airports, where they used to make money and resultantly lost capacity to be able to provide airlines with catering services.
In the past, Zimbabwe would supply international airlines that flew and terminated in the country, among them British Airways, KLM, Air France, Swiss Air, Qantas, Lufthansa, and Austrian.
At the moment, the airlines flying into Zimbabwe bring their own food from outside, either from their original destination or from neighbouring countries.
Official sources said government officials are disappointed by Chawota and Caaz’s failure to ensure that the new Victoria Falls airport, which was commissioned in 2016, has in-flight kitchen facilities.
Government has ambitions to make Victoria Falls International Airport a regional aviation hub, but the airport does not have a critical facility such as an in-flight kitchen.
Officials revealed airlines’ flight plans get disrupted as they have to fly to other destinations to collect the food, instead of just picking it in Zimbabwe.
“There is a belief that there was corruption and shortcuts, hence this glaring omission,” an official said.
The collapse of catering services has affected the industry and jobs associated with it as well as possible government taxes.
Chawota, who is confronted with a series of corruption allegations, was recently suspended pending the finalisation of a court case involving a multi-million dollar scandal after he pressured the now dissolved Caaz board to authorise a €28 million (US$33,3 million) deal for the purchase and installation of an airspace management system at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to Spanish company Indra Sistemas without going to tender.
Other allegations include that he facilitated the awarding of a contract for the supply of stationery, diaries, outdoor advertising, graphic designs and printing to a company called LL Promotions (Pvt) Ltd, where he is a director.