"Air Zimbabwe To Be Privatised, Blah Blah Bllah..." Says Government

Harare, Zimbabwe, 26 October 2009

The highly inefficient and struggling Zimbabwean National Airline, Air Zimbabwe, is set to be privatised, according to the Zimbabwe Inclusive Government (which is still operational, by the way, because the MDC "disengaged" from ZANU PF and NOT Government).

Last week, I told you about the airline's failure to pay its workers since February this year, when the Inclusive Government was formed. The airline previously relied on Gideon Gono and the Reserve Bank for funds to pay salaries and operating costs.

It emerges now that the airline has a debt totalling US$28 million. They can not retrench staff because they do not the money for the required retrenchment packages. (like other government-owned companies, the airline has an unhealthy and bloated staff complement as a result of ZANU PF patronage).

The culture of entitlement at the airline and in ZANU PF generally has seen the workers gang up through their union to resist any move to retrench workers. They simply claim that any retrenchment exercise would be "unfair".

The Ministry of Public Enterprises and Parastatals is backing the demands from the workers, despite telling the airline that Cabinet has taken a decision for them to rationalise their workforce and retrench staff.

Officials in the ministry told State media at the weekend:

"We expect management to follow proper labour laws in retrenching the staff."

But we are not holding our breath.

We have heard of the privatisation of Air Zimbabwe before and it has never gone anywhere. This is the case again and the corporate world in Zimbabwe has stopped paying attention.

There is lack of political will to finally do away with the company and send it into private hands. For Mugabe, the airline is a prestige asset, to be kept on life support for the sake of image and nothing else.

Government, which has no business running an airline, can not keep burdening taxpayers with this albatross which is of no benefit whatsoever to the people. It is not as though, you, as a taxpayer funding the operations of the airline, are entitled to any sort of discount when you fly with them.

The new players in government, the MDCs, are so bereft of policy ideas that they cannot be bothered to pursue the privatisation of the airline or indeed the privatisation of any other government-owned company. They intend to use these as patronage vehicles themselves when they get into government.

Air Zimbabwe still operates the lucrative London route, which is so busy that they never have a seat to spare.

The airline also now flies to Dubai, another busy route where Zimbabweans are flocking to buy trinkets and goods to sell back home since our own manufacturing sector is still in the doldrums, operating at 25% capacity.

Yet they manage their affairs so dismally that they can not even pay salaries!!

It is a joke, but one that costs you and me dear.

You will hear nothing more of this privatisation until the airline gets back in the news for failing to pay yet another creditor and perhaps also for having one of its aeroplanes impounded.


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