Air Zimbabwe finally grounded

ITS government has placed debt-riddled Air Zimbabwe under judicial management as a prelude for what many are expecting to be its imminent bankruptcy.

Zimbabwe’s flag-carrier airline has debts of US$140 million and owes its staff $35 million more having not paid them since January 2009.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, was infamous for using the airline as his unpaid, personal air taxi and to ship cargo for his ruling party, The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Passengers would be thrown off flights for he and his entourage, flights would be diverted to unscheduled stops on his whim and senior executives paid themselves $20,000 a month, even when the other staff were not being paid. Last year, acting airline head Peter Chikumba gave the president’s wife Grace Mugabe $10,000 “spending money” to apologise for her flight being late.

This now leaves South African Airways as the leading airline serving the country, but not for long. Emirates won a licence to operate there after years of lobbying, launching its first flight last week, and paving the way for other carriers to start operating to Zimbabwe.

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