Tuesday, 2 August 2022

GOVT BUYS JET FOR AIRZIM

IN a move expected to boost the fleet of national airliner Air Zimbabwe, Government has bought a new state of the art Embraer ERJ-145 jet that is expected to take to the skies in the next eight weeks.

The ERJ-145 which is already in the country is Embraer’s 50-passenger regional jet airliner.

This comes at a time when the national airline has secured US$1,4 million to clear debts owed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

This will enhance Zimbabwe’s chances of rejoining IATA and expand its international route network and tap into global partnerships.

IATA has been on record acknowledging that Zimbabwe was making progress in reducing its debt,  owed under blocked funds that could not be repatriated from ticket sales, cargo space and other regulated activities.

Due to this hurdle, the country was currently not a member of the IATA Clearing House (ICH), a critical global enabler for the aviation business, which provides fast, secure and cost effective billing and settlement services in multiple currencies for the air transport industry.

IATA achieves this through, among others, applying the principles of set-off/netting thus reducing cost, risk and increasing speed. The facility further also offers a dispute mechanism of billings and protection in case of default, bankruptcy and cessation of operations.

Recently, President Mnangagwa approved the appointment of six people to be substantive board members of Air Zimbabwe taking over from an Interim board that was appointed about a year ago.

The six are Dr Silvanos Gwarinda, the chairperson of the board, who is a very versatile and hands-on air transport professional with close to 40 years working experience in key strategic positions in marketing/sales development, commercial planning, bilateral air services negotiations, route network development, tourism and aviation consultancy, tourism and academic industries; with a PhD in Air Transport and Tourism Management from the University of Westminster, London, UK.

Others are Ms Ruth Raina Hungwe-Rukarwa, the deputy chairperson of the board, who is a business development specialist with vast strategic marketing experience; Mr Edmund Murambiwa Makona, who has worked with AFRAA and is a former Air Zimbabwe Chief Executive Officer; Mr Lawrence Simbarashe Musendekwa, who is a chartered financial analyst, banker, investment expert and commercial lawyer and Mr Ticharwa Garabga, a registered Legal Practitioner who has worked in the aviation industry for years.

The sixth one is Ms Mucharemba Kahombe, an auditor by profession and shareholder representative on the board.

The seventh board member, a woman, will be appointed soon.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona announced the appointments yesterday morning.

“It is my great honour and privilege to preside over this meeting where we are witnessing the appointment of the substantive board of directors for the Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.  The substantive Board takes over from the Interim Board, exactly 1 year and 23 days since the day we appointed the Interim Board to take over the strategic leadership role of Air Zimbabwe from the Administrator, Mr Reggie Saruchera of Grant Thornton on 8 July 2021.

“As you are all aware, Air Zimbabwe was placed under Administration in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act [Chapter 24:27] from 4 October 2018 to 30 June 2021. Mr Saruchera and his team implemented a scheme of reconstruction until 30 June 2021, whereupon we appointed the outgoing Interim Board on 8 July 2021.

“Allow me to emphasise from the outset, that under the New Dispensation led by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde, Dr ED Mnangagwa, air transport plays an integral role in contributing towards the achievement of an Upper Middle-Income Economy by the year 2030. Indeed, air transport, through the exploits of Air Zimbabwe, our flag carrier, plays a critical role in enabling this endeavour.

The growth of Air Zimbabwe facilitates the opening and connection to markets, facilitates trade and enables industries to link into global supply chains,” he said.

Minister Mhona said although the brand of Air Zimbabwe has been somewhat affected through the turbulence of yesteryear, there is no resting until the airline has been fully revived and primed for a solid recovery path.

“In that sense, we are fully committed towards ensuring that this national asset called Air Zimbabwe gains a lot of ground in terms of market share, integrity, brand image and world class service delivery.

“While events of yesteryear left the national airline at the brink of collapse, we however thank the visionary and able leadership of the Second Republic, ably led by our President Cde Dr. E.D. Mnangagwa, who has given new impetus to the national airline, by instituting measures which placed it under administration, midwifed it out of the same, and successfully rescued it through Treasury support, for it to remain afloat up to this day.  The shareholder has continued to support this key asset and enabler for trade, investment and tourism,” Minister Mhona said.

He said as a show of support and commitment to this recovery process, Government approved the implementation of the Air Zimbabwe six-year Strategic Turnaround Plan, whose blueprint is already in operation, albeit with a few adjustments in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted businesses across the world.

Minister Mhona said this blueprint is expected to propel the operations of Air Zimbabwe towards growth, sustainability and profitability.

“It is our hope that the substantive Board will move in with speed, familiarise themselves with the same, align the strategic plan to their priorities and strategy, with the view to chart a way forward which will enhance business of the airline,” he said.

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