Fungi Kwaramba 6 June 2017
HARARE – Frequent flier President Robert Mugabe pays national airline Air
Zimbabwe (Air Zim) cash upfront whenever he uses its planes, Transport
minister Jorum Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.
The 93-year-old leader travelled to the United States (US) over the
weekend on an Air Zim plane, and according to Gumbo – whose ministry
superintends over the ailing airline – “the president is a good customer”.
“Whenever the president is travelling, we charge him the same amount that
we charge anyone else. The president is in fact our number one client
because that is where we get our money, we only hire when there are
problems with our planes and that can be found in different countries,” he
said, adding that Mugabe “pays the money even before he leaves the
The deepening rot at the struggling flag carrier was recently said to have
triggered serious safety concerns among security chiefs and Zanu PF
bigwigs – who were said to be worried about the safety and security of
the hired planes that Mugabe was now regularly using for his official
travels after Air Zim planes were grounded.
The debt-ridden national airline is barely managing to stay afloat, and to
keep operating its creaky aircraft – a development which had lately
forced, Mugabe, its single biggest customer, to hire private jets from
This also comes as Air Zim has been banned from flying into Europe over
safety concerns – further complicating Mugabe’s frequent travel plans to
international destinations which are not covered by the current travel
restrictions on him.
However, Gumbo yesterday said the problems cited by EU were being sorted
and there are no safety fears when Mugabe is travelling with the planes.
“We had banned our planes, this was after we had applied to resuscitate
the London route, when they had applied they were told by the responsible
authorities from that side that if you want to ply this route you must
meet the conditions.
“When the team came here 12 areas where not conforming to what they
wanted, and after some works our team went to Europe and they met 10 out
of the 12 conditions that were required, it was discovered that we were
manual and not computerised, but before we went to Europe, the Civil
Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe had told us not to fly the planes until we
“There is no danger with flying Air Zimbabwe, of course there are some few
problems but we will sort that out and our planes will be running before
end of this month but that does not stop Air Zimbabwe to fly anywhere
including America or Europe because he has immunity,” Gumbo told the Daily
Air Zim is said to be losing up to $3 million a month, in addition to
being saddled with a $300 million declared debt. The extent of the rot
devouring Air Zimbabwe was first exposed to the public in March when it
was revealed that Mugabe was resorting to hiring private jets for his
overseas travels, after it emerged that the poorly-performing national
carrier had failed to service its planes.
As a result, Mugabe had to lease a private jet from Bahrain, which he used
to travel to Singapore and Ghana then. Mugabe used the same plane during
his second trip to Singapore and on his trip to Mexico last month where he
was attending a climate conference last week.
Air Zim’s fleet comprises two Boeing 767s, three 737s, three MA60s and two
Airbus A320s. However, only four of those are flying: one airbus, one
Boeing 767, one 737 and an MA60.
The national carrier has over the past three decades struggled to
shake-off claims of corruption and ineptitude, which has led to the
dismissals of several of its boards and senior managers.