TROUBLED Air Zimbabwe is involved in a tug of war with Isle of Man company South Jet One Ltd over the ownership of two Airbus A320 aircrafts which the state entity claims it was given as a donation in 2013.
The planes are not in use as one has been parked at the Robert Mugabe International Airport since the alleged donation while the other one is parked at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, where it went for repairs and maintenance in 2013. Air Zimbabwe has not paid for the service.
Air Zimbabwe officials claim the planes were donated to the Government of Zimbabwe by authorities from the Isle of Man. The government, officials say, then passed the planes to Air Zimbabwe. According to documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent, the planes are registered in the name of South Jet One Ltd which is registered in the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea.
South Jet One Ltd is being represented by Sawyer and Mkushi Legal Practitioners.
Sawyer and Mkushi founding partner Honour Mkushi said Air Zimbabwe had no basis on which it could base its claim given that the planes are registered in the South JetOne’s name.
“l represent South Jet One they are my clients. The two aircraft belong to South Jet and they are not operating at the moment because there are a lot of arears to be paid in respect of the rentals. So in a nutshell the aircraft belong to them. If the airplanes were theirs how could they fail to service them?” said Mkushi.
“My client is really trying to sort out the financial burdens of Air Zimbabwe and we are negotiating and I’m sure we will be able to come up with an amicable solution.”
Air Zimbabwe assistant administrator Tonderai Mukubvu confirmed the ownership wrangle and said efforts to solve the impasse were going on.
“It is work in progress and it is not yet resolved. They (South Jet One) are trying to prove their claim because when someone says they own something they have to prove the basis on which they are making their claim on,” said Mukubvu.
An Air Zimbabwe senior official said the planes were a donation but they could not access the planes’ software.
“The Airbuses were a donation which was made to the Government of Zimbabwe which then gave the planes to Air Zimbabwe. But what we have to sort out are the donation papers so that we are able to use them. They are due for tests and we cannot service them because we need access to the software and computer platform,” the official said.
“The access is closed because it is saying you (Air Zimbabwe) are not the owner. So we want to resolve this ownership issue so that we are able to use those Airbuses. One is here and the other is in South Africa for maintenance.”
The official said it was important to resolve the ownership to enable Air Zimbabwe to fly the planes.
“Locally the planes are registered under Government of Zimbabwe but internationally they are registered in another name. So when you try to access the plane’s software it just says access denied. So we are also trying to access the required documentation,” the official said.
The Airbus A320 are 150 seater short to medium range narrow body commercial passenger twin engine jet airliners.