Benjamin Manzini 22 November 2018
HARARE – One of the four aircraft bought by government from Malaysia has
reportedly been sold to Jet Midwest, a US-based leading global aviation
parts provider, due to non-payment by Zimbabwe.
Government had all along claimed it bought four Boeing 777 aircraft from
Malaysia and an Embraer plane, with the planes set to be leased to a new
local airline Zim Airways until national carrier Air Zimbabwe returned to
Zim Airways has been linked to the family of former president Robert
Mugabe, and government has been planning to merge it with Air Zimbabwe
This comes as Air Zimbabwe – saddled with a $300 million debt – has been
put under reconstruction after government appointed Harare-based chartered
Saruchera as the loss-making airline’s administrator to “raise money in
any way without the authority of shareholders for the purposes of the
reconstruction” to revive its flagging fortunes.
Zimbabwe earlier this year took delivery of one of the Zim Airways’ “new”
planes – a Boeing 777 jetliner – but it has already been sent back to the
Asian country for repairs before it has made a single commercial flight.
The Daily News can reveal that one of the Zim Airways’ 777 registered
9M-MRL was spotted last weekend at the Jet Midwest Kansas airport base,
with the “Z” from Zimbabwe and the “WE” rubbed off the livery, something
done on aircraft that have been bought by another carrier so as not to
identify with the previous owner.
Energy minister Joram Gumbo, who was the Transport minister during the
facilitation of the Zim Airways deal, declined to go into detail about the
present status of the aircraft.
“We purchased four Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia Airways and an
Embraer 145 regional jet from the USA and know one of the 777s is in
America but cannot comment on the reasons why. Contact the ministry of
Transport,” Gumbo told the Daily News.
Frantic efforts to get comment from Transport minister Joe Biggie Matiza
were futile, as he did not respond to calls from the Daily News and
questions sent to his mobile.
His deputy Fortune Chasi told the Daily News he had no idea about the
issue and referred questions to Matiza, who was said to be in Beijing on
business and reportedly returned home last weekend.
Jet Midwest is in the business of buying used aircraft from airlines and
selling them for spares, leasing them or selling them off to other
Most recently, Jet Midwest acquired Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300 ER and an
El AL Israeli Airline’s Boeing 767-300 ER.
The Daily News can report that only two of the three planes have been paid
for in full, with the third still awaiting the fulfilment of payment.
The Malay have decided to sell the aircraft, a decision reportedly taken
by Price Waterhouse Coopers which has placed the airline under curatorship
as it spearheads its restructuring after persistent loss of revenue
following the devastating impact of two jetliner disasters.
The Malaysia Airways’ restructuring follows wrenching tragedies for the
airline following the unexplained disappearance of Flight MH370 en route
from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March and the shooting down of Flight MH17
over Ukraine in 2014. The aircraft bought by Zim Airways were retired by
Malaysia Airways due to age as well as their questionable safety record
which had raised a lot of questions.
Malaysia Airways has now purchased the ultra-modern Boeing 787s to replace
its 777s fleet.
There have been swirling concern about Zim Airways’ decision to purchase
these condemned aircraft that are over 20 years old.
It now turns out one of the four Boeing 777-200 ER (Extended Range) has
been sold to Jet Midwest – an American full service commercial aircraft,
engine and spare parts trading company, possibly to be cannibalised for
As it is, none of the aircraft bought by government are in Zimbabwe.
The aircraft that was delivered to Harare and returned back to Kuala
Lumpur was emblazoned with the tail number Z-RGM after the deal was
brokered by Simba Chikore – the son-in-law of Mugabe – who was the chief
operations officer of Air Zimbabwe.
Chikore was part of the delegation that travelled to Malaysia to take
delivery of the aircraft.
Since the time the plane was taken back to Malaysia for routine
maintenance, a service required by civil aviation law to be performed
periodically after a number of hours of cycles of flight, it is yet to
While the plane was said to have been sent back for A-Check maintenance,
it’s unclear why it required this service when the 777 never flew since
According to experts, A-Check maintenance refers to checks that are
carried out on an aeroplane every eight to 10 weeks – where “filters will
be changed, key systems
(like hydraulics in the “control surfaces” that steer the aircraft) will
be lubricated and a detailed inspection of all the emergency equipment
(like inflatable slides) is completed”.
Government had said it was due to receive the remaining two wide-bodied
aircraft from Malaysia Airlines, which were to be used by the new airline
whose ownership has prompted more questions than answers – although the
government, which initially distanced itself from the secretive carrier,
now says it owns it.