Sunday Mail Reporter in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines has offered Air Zimbabwe a life-saving partnership deal that will see them bring planes, train pilots and also help the national airliner become an aircraft maintenance hub in Sadc.
The offer follows a closed-door meeting between President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who is in Addis Ababa for the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union — and Ethiopian Airline chief executive officer Mr Tewolde Gebremarian yesterday.
Ethiopian Airlines scooped the best African airline in 2018 and boasts of a significant fleet that is currently plying several regional and international routes.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, who also attended the meeting between President Mnangagwa and Mr Gebremarian, described the offer as a “very interesting proposal”.
“The group chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Airlines brought in a very interesting proposal. You know they are already flying to Zimbabwe and they are flying all over the world. What they want is to come in and sort of partner with Air Zimbabwe and they are prepared to bring planes to Air Zimbabwe in Harare. They are also prepared to train pilots so that pilots in Zimbabwe can actually be perfected,” said Minister Moyo.
He said the Ethiopians were also ready to assist in establishing an aircraft maintenance hub in Harare.
“They are also prepared to support the organisation in maintenance so that Zimbabwe becomes a maintenance hub for aircraft, just like Addis (Ababa) is. They will do that together with maintenance people of Air Zimbabwe so that we can get a clear partnership which will see them fly the Air Zimbabwe routes in code-sharing with Air Zimbabwe colours, and they will fly all over the world using that particular agreement,” added Dr Moyo.
President Mnangagwa and Mr Gebremarian also talked about the funds Ethiopian Airlines is failing to access from Zimbabwe.
“It is true, they touched on that and that it is worth about $18 million which is stuck in Zimbabwe, but that was not so much of an issue because they believe that if they establish a partnership with Air Zimbabwe, they will be able to get that money without any problems and in a very short space of time.
‘‘His Excellency has also promised that my counterpart, the Minister of Finance (and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube), is going to take a serious position in terms of reducing that debt,” he said.
Government is working flat out to revive Air Zimbabwe, which has been struggling for sometime now.
Last week, Cabinet resolved to proceed with the acquisition of four Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia valued at $70 million as part of measures to revive the flag carrier.