12 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt to Announce New Airzim Board

The Government will next week announce a new board of directors for Air Zimbabwe as it moves to restore viability at the national airline, a senior official said yesterday. The airline has been operating with an interim board since March last year when the Government disbanded Air Zimbabwe Holdings and formed a new State-run company Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited.

Transport Communications and Infrastructural Development permanent secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa will chair the new board.

Mr Munodawafa told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development that the move was part of measures being implemented to restore viability at Air Zimbabwe.

"There have been consultations taking place with regards to appointment of a new board.

"The latest instruction I got from my minister is that a substantive board will be inaugurated on the 22nd of February," he said.

He said appointment of the board was in line with recommendations by advisory firm Ernst & Young, hired in May last year to seek ways of reviving the airline.

"We have been working with a consultant Ernst & Young to come up with a business plan to revive Air Zimbabwe.

"A blueprint of what the new board needs to do is now in place," he said. Mr Munodawafa said the new board would be mainly seized with rebranding the airline as well as restructuring staff.

He said part of the restructuring exercise included concluding the retrenchment of 409 employees who are yet to be relieved of their duties due to shortage of funds to finance the exercise.

"When restructuring was first mooted it meant 409 people were to be retrenched with funds for the exercise coming from Treasury, but that money has not come so those workers have not been retrenched.

"Until we retrench them according to the laws of Zimbabwe they will continue to be on the books of Air Zimbabwe," he said.

Mr Munodawafa highlighted that the longer the targeted retrenchees remained on Air Zimbabwe's payroll the more it would impact negatively on its balance sheet.

Meanwhile, Mr Munodawafa said Airzim was flying four times a week on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls-Harare route as well as South Africa.

"We are working with management so that we can secure small jets to expand our local and regional routes," he said.

Airzim acting chief executive officer Mr Innocent Mavhunga, however, said the local routes were currently not viable due to low passenger volumes while they were using a bigger plane to service them.

"The current business model is not viable at all. We are using a plane with a load factor of about 100 people, but we can have about 40 to 50 passengers. At best we can manage about 70 passengers, that is why we need smaller planes," he said.

To remedy the situation, Airzim has since leased two Airbus A320s which will service regional and domestic routes after completing mandatory safety tests.

New Ziana

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