Joseph Madzimure and Tawanda Musarurwa, Harare Bureau
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has appointed former Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa as the new Air Zimbabwe board chairman with immediate effect.
Cde Chinamasa’s appointment comes as Air Zimbabwe Administrator Mr Reggie Saruchera told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure — which was on a fact-finding mission — that the assumption of the national airline’s US$387 million debt will pace up the company’s reconstruction process.
In a statement, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said: “His Excellency the President, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has appointed Anthony Patrick Chinamasa as chairman of the Board of Directors of Air Zimbabwe.
“Cde Patrick Chinamasa, who is the Zanu-PF Secretary for Finance, has served the Government of Zimbabwe in several Government portfolios including that of Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
“His appointment is with immediate effect.”
Cde Chinamasa takes over from Professor Chipo Dyanda, who led the board that was dissolved in August last year.
His appointment comes as Air Zimbabwe, which is burdened by a staggering US$387 million debt, is under reconstruction but is looking to turnaround its operations following the acquisition of an Embraer ERJ145.
Air Zimbabwe, which has since submitted a revised debt assumption proposal to Government, expects to take delivery of two Boeing 777-ERs in the next few months.
Cabinet is expected to deliberate on the revised proposal in its sitting set for today.
Air Zimbabwe administrator Mr Reggie Saruchera said the national flag carrier’s debt takeover was approved by Cabinet long ago but nothing has materialised since then.
“The debt issue had already been approved in 2012, but nothing has happened since then,” said Mr Saruchera, a managing partner at Grant Thornton Camelsa.
“We have gone back to Government and said ‘Cabinet, please approve the debt takeover so that the reconstruction process can begin in earnest’.
“We know that Cabinet is taking a minute to make sure that the debt assumption moves.”
Of the US$387 million debt, about US$30 million is foreign debt with the bulk of it being split between nine Government parastatals, agencies and departments.
The foreign debt has left the national airliner stripped of its international aviation privileges, and Mr Saruchera wants the situation to be expeditiously addressed if Air Zimbabwe was going to operate viably.
In 2012, Air Zimbabwe was removed from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
It currently owes IATA US$4,2 million.
The reconstruction plan is expected to see the national airliner operating at least four planes, servicing domestic and regional markets.
Mr Saruchera said Air Zimbabwe has been running inefficiently, with large aircraft servicing short haul routes.
He said they will strive to “effectively service the domestic and regional markets and also be able to generate money”.
“Our major markets in the region are South Africa; we want to go to Durban and Cape Town, and link up with Victoria Falls. We currently go to Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), and we want to go to Malawi (Lilongwe) and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“These are areas we need to focus on,” said Tonderayi Mukubvu, director of transaction advisory services at Grant Thornton.
Currently, Air Zimbabwe is not in the skies as the only operation aircraft, a Boeing 767, is being serviced.
Mr Saruchera said they are hoping to bring the recently acquired Embraer onto local routes.
The only hold up in the use of the Embraer, which was bought for US$1,8 million, are the Know-your-customer (KYC) requirements with Embraer Brazil.