In mid-April I first wrote about how Zimbabwe took delivery of a Boeing 777, which used to fly for Malaysia Airlines.
Zimbabwe’s government owned airline is 300 million USD in debt, so Zimbabwe did what any rational government would do, and planned to acquire four 777s that they’d lease to a start-up airline. This doesn’t come as any surprise, but there has been a lot of scandal surrounding this.
Scandal, scandal, scandal
The first bit of scandal revolves around the Mugabe family. The government claimed that this airline had absolutely nothing to do with Mugabe. That’s despite the fact that Mugabe’s son-in-law was one of the captains of the plane when they took delivery of it, and that Mugabe’s daughter met him when the plane arrived, and that the plane’s registration code is Z-RGM (with “RGM” presumably standing for Robert Gabriel Mugabe).
That’s only half of the scandal. It then came out that allegedly 140 million USD couldn’t be accounted for in this deal. That happens to me as well sometimes. You know, when you drop 41 million USD on something, and then 140 million USD goes missing. You’ve just gotta roll with the punches in life, you know?
I’ve been closely following Zimbabwe Airways, mainly because I’ve really been hoping to get on their inaugural flight. Could you imagine the fun destinations they’ll fly to? Perhaps Grace “Gucci” Mugabe could handpick her favorite shopping destinations and they could build the route network based on that? Having had the privilege of already flying on a plane with Ms. Gucci, I’d love to fly with her again!
It has been nearly six weeks since Zimbabwe Airways took delivery of their 777, and based on flight trackers I’ve been monitoring, the plane hasn’t moved. It’s still sitting at Harare Airport in Zimbabwe. So, what’s going on here?
The government of Zimbabwe is more involved than they claimed
The first interesting update here is that the government of Zimbabwe initially claimed that they weren’t involved with the new airline. That’s to say that they were responsible for the lease, but a private company would be operating the airline, and presumably would be paying lease payments to the government. They’ve now admitted that’s not the case.
According to The Economist:
The government had claimed for months that the new airline was a private initiative, funded by Zimbabwean investors living abroad. Joram Gumbo, the transport minister, told local newspapers it had been necessary to lie because “if they had been exposed as government of Zimbabwe planes, they would have been taken by the creditors who were claiming for money.” He also revealed that “the man in charge of Zimbabwe Airways” is Mr Mugabe’s son-in-law.
So what happens now that it has been revealed…?
Air Zimbabwe isn’t letting Zimbabwe Airways park their plane in hangar
It actually seems like this is quite reasonable, but there’s also apparently some controversy because Air Zimbabwe isn’t letting Zimbabwe Airways us their hangar for the 777. Instead the plane is parked at the domestic terminal at Robert Mugabe International Airport. According to zimeye.net:
The sources who spoke to weekend media said that the Air Zimbabwe hangars do not meet the standards required by the insurance companies for the plane of which the airline can not take the risk to accomodate the aircraft.
“The Air Zimbabwe hangar which was commissioned during Zimbabwe-Rhodesia era does not meet international standards for risk cover. It does not have smoke or fire detection system. It does not have a fire suppression system (automatic ceiling water/foam sprinklers. The other smaller hangar has been housing AirZim’s B737 which has been on major maintenance for more than four years now,” the source said.
So yeah, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for them to not want to accommodate a plane when the facility isn’t equipped to do so (then again I’m not sure what exactly the facility is equipped to do, given that an Air Zimbabwe 737 has been in maintenance for more than four years…).
Just wow. I don’t think anyone in their right mind thought that the government of Zimbabwe was ever serious about this, though it’s especially sad that it looks like this may have just been a deal to make 140 million USD miraculously go missing. This money could have been better spent on the people of Zimbabwe.
I think it goes without saying that Zimbabwe Airways won’t be flying their 777 anytime soon, though I do wonder what will happen with it. Will this plane just be parked at Robert Mugabe International Airport until it’s completely unusable, will they sell it to another company soon, or what?