Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Struggling national airline, Air Zimbabwe (Airzim), has appointed President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore as the debt-ridden flag carrier’s chief operating officer (COO)— in a move that has reignited fresh national debate regarding the appointment of politically-connected people to powerful public sector positions.

Chikore, who is said to be a qualified pilot and is married to Mugabe’s only daughter Bona — the apple of her father’s eye — joins former Airzim captain Ripton Muzenda, a relative of the late vice president Simon Muzenda, who was recently appointed as the airline’s chief executive officer.

Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joram Gumbo, who confirmed Chikore’s appointment to the Daily News yesterday, defended the move saying the president’s son-in-law was the best man for the job.

“Yes, ... Chikore is the new chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe. We advertised the job and the response was good. I have been given the results of the hiring process by the Bona’s husband now Airzim boss board chairman and there were seven candidates and he came tops all round.

“It was done by experts and his experience as a pilot for Air Zimbabwe and in Qatar, as well as his training in the US prevailed. He was just too good because the guy who came second was way below him in terms of points.

“I’m aware that some people will raise eyebrows, but from the results I think he deserves the job and as minister, I accept the appointment,” Gumbo said.

“It does not mean that the president’s relatives, his children or anyone associated with him cannot be employed in Zimbabwe. I’m a relative of the president but does that mean I’m not supposed to be minister?

“I hope people will not spread lies of favouritism because he truly deserves the job. He was interviewed by both outsiders and the Air Zimbabwe team,” Gumbo added.

Speaking to the Daily News earlier, Airzim chairperson Chipo Dyanda had appeared reluctant to confirm Chikore’s appointment, choosing to say that the airline now had two executives who included a COO.

“We are still in the process of recruiting new management for Air Zimbabwe and we have so far filled the position of chief operating officer and executive manager airline systems and administration.

The two new appointments began work on October 1, 2016,” Dyanda said.
But this did not stop disaffected Zanu PF bigwigs who alerted the Daily News to the appointment at the weekend to say that it raised questions about the hiring of people to influential positions in the country.

“I know that some people will say I’m saying this because I’m not in good books with the system, but this is not what we went to (the liberation) war for, where your surname, totem, who you know, are related to and sleeps with determines your station in life.

“It may well be true that mukwasha (son-in-law), muzukuru (nephew), hanzvadzi (sister) or sekuru (uncle) would be qualified to be appointed to Cabinet or to other high positions, but it is nevertheless inappropriate.

“Seeing that so many well-connected people always appear to be rewarded and accommodated by the system, it makes it difficult for one not to be concerned about corruption and nepotism, which are huge cancers in our country,” a ruling party stalwart said.

Chikore and Bona got married at a lavish wedding ceremony in Harare two years ago, and have since been blessed with a baby son.

Airzim insiders said Chikore and Muzenda have their work cut out at the struggling airline, which is said to be losing up to $3 million a month, and is saddled with a $300 million debt.
The flag carrier has also over the last three decades struggled to shake-off claims of executive corruption and ineptitude, which has led to the dismissals of several senior managers.

After the airline overlooked its former acting chief executive, Edmund Makona, when it appointed Muzenda to the position last month, he quit in a huff, with the parties later reported to have engaged in exit package negotiations.
No details about this have been released to date. daily news


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