Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Minister grounds AirZim

Minister grounds AirZim

By Thelma Chikwanha and Kumbirai Mafunda
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 14:13

HARARE – Crisis-ridden Air Zimbabwe plumbed new depths yesterday when 
damaging allegations surfaced that a cabinet minister was behind the 
controversial move by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) to 
ground Air Zimbabwe planes.

Air Zimbabwe officials, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told 
the Daily News last night that a “greedy and corrupt cabinet minister” (name 
supplied) was behind the grounding of some of the beleaguered airline’s 
planes, in his bid to force through the acquisition of new planes by the 
national carrier.

Air Zimbabwe’s three Boeing 737 planes were grounded by CAAZ yesterday, with 
the aviation authority claiming that they were now too old and should not be 
in service any more.

But the Air Zimbabwe officials insisted that CAAZ had grounded the planes to 
allow the senior government and Zanu PF official to ram through the supply 
of new planes, where he expects, or has organised massive kick backs.

The supply of brand new planes around the world is often accompanied by 
controversies and the payment of huge bribes.

CAAZ officials were not available for comment yesterday, with chief 
executive David Chawota’s number not available, together with that of 
spokesperson Annajulia Hungwe.

Air Zimbabwe board chairman Jonathan Kadzura said he had heard about the 
grounding of the planes but said he could not comment as he was out of town.

However, Kadzura is said to be so disgruntled with Air Zimbabwe – where 
ministry officials sideline him and deal directly with management – that he 
is reportedly contemplating resigning.

When reached for comment, Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Peter 
Mavhunga said: “I have no comment to make.”

But one of our sources at Air Zimbabwe said as a result of the controversial 
grounding, the airline was now likely to suffer losses, with disastrous 
consequences for the carrier, tourism and the Zimbabwean economy.

“It’s a disaster at Air Zimbabwe because after the grounding of the Boeing 
737 planes, we were forced to cancel all our flights. The South Africa route 
was the most affected because the flights were full. This is a clear case of 
sabotage and the top leadership in the country must investigate this.

“We have been speaking to Boeing officials and they told us that our planes 
are still fine and better than similar planes even run by some South African 
carriers. We have been told that someone in government instructed them to 
ground the planes so that they create opportunities when new planes are 

“CAAZ said the planes had reached the limit of 34 000 cycles but Boeing 
officials say the planes can reach up to 66 000 cycles. The officials from 
Boeing are so concerned they will be travelling to Zimbabwe to make 
assessments. Talk to Boeing in the United States and they will confirm the 
same. This senior government official is destroying Air Zimbabwe,” the 
official said.

To make matters worse for Air Zimbabwe, the sub standard Chinese made MA 60 
plane which was due to fly to Victoria Falls yesterday developed a technical 
fault and failed to take off. The grounding of the planes comes soon after 
pilots went on a paralysing strike recently, where they were demanding 
better salaries.

Saddled with a huge US$100 million debt, Air Zimbabwe’s problems are said to 
have worsened in recent weeks as a result of the fallout between the 
Minister of Transport Nicholas Goche and the Kadzura board.

The grounding of the planes however, did not affect the long haul Boeing 767 
planes which fly to London and the Far East.

Goche was not available to shed light on the developments at the national 
airline yesterday, although senior ministry officials confirmed the standoff 
between CAAZ and Air Zimbabwe.

Once one of the best airlines in Africa, Air Zimbabwe has been run down due 
to successive years of mismanagement, corruption, political interference and 
inadequate funding.

Air Zimbabwe took to the skies on Monday, despite its suspension from the 
International Air Transit Association (IATA), which means its tickets were 
not available through the IATA’s 60 000 accredited travel agents.


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