2 February 2012

Zimbabwe: Emirates Completes Maiden Flight

Photo: The Herald
Emirates Airlines seals the deal with government.

Zimbabwe's Transport Minister Nicholas Goche, celebrated the maiden flight into Harare by global airline giant Emirates. Ignoring the embarrassment of being unable to resolve the crisis at Air Zimbabwe, Goche was a passenger on the Emirates Airbus A330-200 plane which flew into Harare on Wednesday.

In early January this year it was reported that Goche had ordered regional and international flights by Air Zimbabwe to be suspended, fearing seizure of its remaining aircraft by creditors. Flights to the United Kingdom and South Africa especially, were frozen until such time US$140 million in debts have been paid.

This week Goche put the Air Zimbabwe debacle aside and was joined by other government ministers, singers Oliver Mtukudzi, Dudu Manhenga and Victor Kunonga in celebrating the arrival of Emirates into Harare. The airline officially began its five-day-a-week flight schedule to Harare from Dubai.

Speaking to journalists Goche said the arrival of Emirates "is a very significant development for the market. We welcome the entrance of a truly global airline; with an extensive network, large fleet and great reputation for quality service which will greatly improve choice and connectivity for Zimbabwean travellers."

Economic commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga told SW Radio Africa that the celebrations were more political than economic given Zimbabwe's international isolation. Airlines like British Airways had deserted the market and Mhlanga said for some in government Emirates coming in offered them a symbolic victory.

A recent poll by newspapers had Goche as one of the worst performing ministers in the coalition government. He was accused of failing to come up with rescue measures for parastatals like Air Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, and Net One, among others.

Examples of his 'incompetence' included the fact that the Air Zimbabwe board had met only once despite the crisis affecting the airline. He was also accused of spending most of his time trying to grab ministerial mandates from Information and Communication Technology minister, Nelson Chamisa.

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