Published on : Friday, May 18, 2018
Earlier this year Zimbabweans were startled to learn that the government had concluded a secret $70m deal to buy four second-hand Boeing jets from Malaysia to form the core of a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways.
This new venture is supposed to compete with Air Zimbabwe, the flag carrier. It ran up huge debts thanks to poor management and ex-President Robert Mugabe’s habit of commandeering its planes so his wife could shop abroad.
The government hopes to kindle the tourism and business by reopening long-haul routes that are closed to Air Zimbabwe, whose planes can be impounded as soon as they land on foreign runways.
It suspended flights to London’s Gatwick airport in 2011, for instance, after one of its planes was seized over an unpaid debt. It has since been banned from European skies because of concerns over the safety of its creaking planes.
The government had claimed for months that the new airline was a private initiative, funded by Zimbabwean investors living abroad.
The officials see the new airline as a cure for the economy. That seems unlikely. It will be pitted against rivals offering reliable connecting services via their hubs in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates.