HARARE – Strategic partners are shunning Air Zimbabwe because of the national airline’s bad image and a terrible balance sheet, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister Nicholas Goche said yesterday that a number of partners had approached Government to partner Air Zimbabwe, but they were being “put off” by the national airline’s “sorry” state.
He was speaking in an interview after touring the Harare International Airport Runway Rehabilitation project.
“You cannot expect a strategic partner now because of the sorry state the airline is in,” he said.
“Many have expressed willingness, but at the end of the day they are put off by the situation they see.”
Minister Goche said Government was still searching for a suitable strategic partner for the airline.
“That is what we are doing, but it is difficult mainly because of the bad balance sheet and bad image,” he said.
Government, he said, was trying to assist Air Zimbabwe to restore its former glory. Minister Goche said he was happy with the cooperation the Ministry of Finance had shown in cushioning the national airline.
“We are busy trying to correct the problems,” he said.
“We have to ensure that our national airline is debtfree and attracts partners. I am happy the Minister of Finance (Tendai Biti) is now cooperating with us and recently he released some money to Air Zim.
“That is the money that was used to settle some operational debts and settle part of the workers’ salaries.
“Government has agreed to take over the Air Zim debt and pay some of the external debtors and we are going to do that.”
Minister Biti is on record saying Government would not rescue Air Zim because of “pressing demands”. Minister Goche said Government was happy with the progress being made in expanding the runway.
The runway, that will be five kilometres long, is expected to see bigger and wide bodied aircraft taking off and landing at the same time.
About 2,8 kilometres of the runway have been completed. “The last time I came here, the progress was not as impressive as it is now. Tremendous work has been done and I urge all stakeholders involved to meet set targets,” said Minister Goche.
“We have also received a lot of compliments from visitors over this project and this is commendable.”
Minister Goche expressed satisfaction with progress being made towards the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in August next year.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe general manager Mr David Chawota said the runway project in Harare would be completed by December.
“We hope that resources will continue coming so that we meet the deadline,” he said. Minister Goche also toured the Air Zimbabwe sewer and reticulation system that is being connected to the Harare municipal system.