Air Zimbabwe holdings disbanded

The country’s national flag carrier Air Zimbabwe Holdings has been disbanded, ending almost 32 years of continuous service.

But Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister Nicholas Goche immediately announced a ‘rebranding’ of the airline’s company, which is now Air Zimbabwe Private Limited.

He told the state controlled Herald that cabinet had approved the change. The ‘new’ AirZim will use an airbus A320 aircraft for domestic and regional routes and will acquire more aircraft on lease to service its international routes.

A source told SW Radio Africa that the government might lease out its two Boeing 767 planes to raise cash to service debts accrued by the former flag carrier.

It’s believed the new brand will have to implement massive job cuts and look for strategic partners to make it a viable entity. Most of its workforce, including pilots and cabin crew, will be hired from the disbanded company.

In December the financially crippled Air Zimbabwe Holdings cancelled all its flights to Johannesburg and London over fears that their planes would be seized to cover outstanding debts owed for handling service charges.

A source told us the airline was forced to abandon plans to take to the skies again after partners began demanding advance payments for their services.

The airline owes Bid Air of South Africa $500,000 in handling service charges that have accrued over the years, while it was also forced to raise $1.2 million to pay off a debt owed to U.S. company American General Supplies, for aircraft spares.

The American firm had impounded Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767-200 after it landed at London’s Gatwick Airport and had threatened to auction the plane off if the debt wasn't paid off by the end of the day.

The suspension of AirZim flights has allowed competitors to increase the number of flights in and out of Zimbabwe. South African Airways has three flights daily while British Airways’ Comair has a daily flight on the Harare-Johannesburg route. Emirates Airlines has already started operating five flights a week, linking Harare with Dubai and London.

Economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga told us the reason behind the move to disband the former national carrier was because of its debts of around $140 million.

Mhlanga added that the airline had reached what he called an ‘unsustainable’ financial situation and had been unable to find new investors.

‘Air Zimbabwe Pvt Ltd is now a new corporate entity with its own identity. It is separate from Air Zimbabwe Holdings whose debt is now part and parcel of the national debt because government has assumed it.

‘Anyone who wants to trace or pursue their debt will have to do it with the government, as it is now administrator of the insolvent company Air Zimbabwe holdings,’ Mhlanga said.

It will be interesting to see if the government ever pays off any of this huge debt. SW Radio Africa

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