News24 Correspondent, News24, 2017-06-27
Harare – It has a handsome black tail fin, with a gold Zimbabwe bird at its centre, and red, yellow and green stripes on its stern.
But it’s the new name, alongside the country’s national flower that has got people puzzled: Zimbabwe Airways. Not Air Zimbabwe?
A YouTube video of the Boeing 777 taking off in this new livery and under this new name has been shared extensively by Zimbabweans, fuelling debate.
The video was taken sometime this year at Malaysia’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. The plane still bears a small Malaysian flag on the forward fuselage, adding to the intrigue.
‘What’s going on?’
“A few questions. Is Air Zimbabwe now Zimbabwe Airways? Whose plane is it? What’s going on?” asked Zimbabwean journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu on Twitter.
Speculated @Baekithemba: “Zimbabwe Airways is technically a new entity set up to disentangle it from Air Zimbabwe debt. Govt likely to take over debt.”
Aviation consultant Richard Maslen suggested in a tweet: “It appears #Zimbabwe has gone ahead with liquidation of Air Zimbabwe & launch of new national carrier.”
Banned from Europe
Air Zimbabwe’s problems are well known. The state-run company is groaning under a reported debt of over $300 million. In May the European Commission banned Air Zimbabwe’s planes from flying to Europe over safety concerns.
There’s been no official word from Air Zimbabwe on the video.
But the private NewsDay paper said that Air Zimbabwe has concluded a long-term deal with Malaysia Airlines, which will see Zimbabwe leasing four Boeing 777-200 planes soon.
“The project is being spearheaded by chief operating officer (Simba) Chikore (President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law) as the company forges ahead with restructuring,””an unnamed company insider told the paper.
The source said the four planes to be hired are 12-year-old Boeing 777-200ERs previously flown by Malaysia Airlines.