GOVERNMENT is set to acquire 15 aeroplanes as part of efforts to resuscitate the ailing Air Zimbabwe, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Jorum Gumbo has said.
In an interview recently, Dr Gumbo said plans were at an advanced stage for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to acquire the planes under a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with investors in the Diaspora.
“The Civil Aviation Authority is on the verge of acquiring 15 new air planes from Malaysia under a lease agreement,” he said. “The deal was penned between Government and a private company, DIDG, a consortium of business partners from the Diaspora.”
Dr Gumbo said Air Zimbabwe was reeling under a huge debt burden, which limited it from applying for credit from the market.
Government has managed to rope in partners from the diaspora who are interested in the local airline, he said.
“Under this agreement, which I initially planned to sign with Malaysia Airline, the DIDG (Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group) company will facilitate the acquisition of these planes under a lease agreement, and this will be renewable after five years,” said Dr Gumbo.
“Firstly, I had suggested that we enter into an agreement with the Malaysian airline, but the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe’s books were in the red, we could not meet loan requirements.”
Dr Gumbo said Government had settled for DIDG – the same company that is involved in the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) deal – which offered to assist in acquiring the planes from Malaysia.
“The national airline is reeling under a $330 million debt,” he said. “Its balance sheet is in bad state at the moment, hence, these other interventions.”
Dr Gumbo said his ministry’s mandate was to oversee the rehabilitation of three major sectors – aviation, roads and rail transport.
“As the Minister who has been given chance to continue with the work, I have started my mandate, and I have started with the implementation of Beitbridge-Harare dualisation project,” he said.
“The Harare ring road and Harare-Chirundu Highway dualisation will also go ahead after we signed an agreement with a Chinese company. I have also implemented the $400 million recapitalisation project for the National Railways of Zimbabwe, and lastly, the Civil Aviation recapitalisation deal.”
Dr Gumbo retained his post as the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development after the appointment of a new Cabinet by President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently.
President Mnangagwa took over the reins after former President Cde Robert Mugabe resigned on November 21.