Parly has Transport minister Joram Gumbo in cross hairs, demanding that he provides convincing answers on all aspects of the controversial new airline, Zimbabwe Airways — said to have links with former president Robert Mugabe’s family.
This comes as the purchase price of four wide-bodied aircraft from Malaysia Airlines to be used by Zim Airways has set tongues wagging — amid damaging allegations that this had been inflated by more than $100 million, from $70 million to a staggering $180 million.
At the centre of the controversy is a secretive company, the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC) — which all along was said to be fronted by Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora, but is now said to belong to the government.
Now, Parliament is asking the under-fire Gumbo to provide a comprehensive statement on ZALC’s shareholding and how it came to purchase its aircraft, amid the damaging claims of malpractices and corruption.
“Seeing that there is a lot of talk about Zimbabwe Airways and the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge road — and there are a lot of things that have been said pertaining to that road, including the cancellation of tenders and tenders being awarded to people that have not submitted bids in the first place — I thought I would want him to favour this House with a ministerial statement on basically those two issues.
“On Zimbabwe Airways, he (Gumbo) should tell the nation issues like who owns it, how the aeroplanes were bought and the shareholding of that company.
“So, I submit and hope that the minister will favour us with that ministerial statement,” Mabvuku-Tafara legislator James Maridadi said in Parliament on Thursday — in a motion that apparently enjoys wide, cross-party support.
Zim Airways inked its deal with Malaysia Airlines for the acquisition of the four Boeing 777 planes last year, in the process making an upfront payment for two of the aircraft to the tune of $36 million.
Gumbo and Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore, who was briefly chief operating officer at struggling flag-carrier Air Zimbabwe, were reported at the time to have been intimately involved in the formation of Zim Airways, as well as the purchase of the aircraft.
Last week, the government took delivery of one of the four planes as part of the opaque deal that will see a total of four wide-bodied planes eventually being sourced from Malaysia.
Meanwhile, outspoek Norton legislator Temba Mliswa alleged in Parliament last week that a Singaporean company was involved with Zim Airways, further challenging Gumbo to furnish the august House with full details about the controversial airline and its aircraft purchases.
“I just want to add something … there must be the shareholding structure because I am told that the statement made by (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa (last week) is not true that there is a company.
“What I am trying to say is that Zimbabwe Airways is a company that is going to lease from another company. That company is registered in Singapore and the Zimbabwean government owns the planes.
“Hence, we need to know who that company is because it appears to be a very sophisticated structure. That is why I am spending time saying Zimbabwe Airways shareholders as well as shareholders of the company that leases from the government must also be known.
“Therefore, your statement must be clear so that there will be no more grey areas in that regard,” Mliswa thundered.
But Gumbo insisted that the Zim Airways deal was above board, promising MPs that he would bring all the necessary evidence.
“I am ready to give a ministerial statement containing all details, including commas and full-stops thereof … I have no problem … I will give you everything … Do not worry.