Air Zimbabwe pilots go on strike

TROUBLED national airline, Air Zimbabwe, scheduled resumption of domestic flights on Monday failed to take place after pilots went on strike on the day over the non-payment of outstanding allowances and salaries.The airline suspended its domestic flights in January this year after an aircraft servicing domestic routes developed mechanical faults.Acting chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga said could not shed much light when contacted for comment.In an earlier interview he has said: “

“We will be flying four times a week to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. We will gradually increase flights as the market picks up,” he said last week.

The airline is saddled with an estimated debt of $149 million.

Foreign creditors are owed about $30 million, and the rest is owed to local entities.

Transport and Communications minister Nicholas Goche last week told a local weekly that the airline had been operating on a deficit since 1994, but the inception of the multi-currency system worsened the situation.

This, he said, had resulted in frequent strikes, grounding of operations, non-replacement of equipment, huge debts, suspension from International Aviation Transport Association, lease withdrawals and contract cancellations, among other problems.Sources at Air Zimbabwe said the about 40 pilots working for the government's airline, are grossly underpaid. Their salaries despite being the lowest in the region never came on time since the economic crisis in 2008.

Air Zimbabwe has aging aircraft including two Boeing 767 passenger jets, three Boeings’ 737, which were recently suspended after they were adjudged to be past their designed service life and one small Chinese plane for the domestic routes and to Johannesburg.

Air Zimbabwe has an impeccable safety record but has, like every other government company or agency, been short of money for the last decade.

Years of mismanagement and aircraft commandeering by President Robert Mugabe has also compounded the problem.

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