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Air Zimbabwe to get delivery of Boeing 777 tomorrow

by Staff reporter
19 Jan 2020 at 14:13hrs | Views
Air Zimbabwe will take delivery of one of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft acquired from Malaysia on Monday, almost four years after the deal was negotiated.

Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza is in Malaysia to conclude the deal for the planes.

The late former President Robert Mugabe personally negotiated the acquisition of four Boeing 777-200 planes which had been retired by Malaysian Airlines in 2016 after one of their fleet disappeared without trace and another was shot down over Ukraine.

Zimbabwe Airways, the ill-fated state-owned successor to Air Zimbabwe whose livery appears on the aircraft, had been quoted $18,5 million each for two of the planes which were then five-years-old, and $16,5 million each for the other two which were 11-years-old, according to former transport minister Joram Gumbo.

A 2017 military coup which ousted Mugabe put the delivery of the planes on the back-burner as Zimbabwe defaulted on payments, amid claims that the plane deal was plagued by corruption.

The new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa collapsed Zimbabwe Airways, which was headed by Mugabe's son-in-law Simba Chikore, and transferred its assets – including the planes – to Air Zimbabwe.

To date, Zimbabwe has fully paid only two of the four planes – 9M-MRQ and Z-RGM, formerly 9M-MRP. The latter, set to be delivered on Monday, was named in honour of President Mugabe.

Matiza said the second plane would be delivered within weeks, but offered no information on the other two planes – 9M-MRL and 9M-MRM – which were flown to the United States in November 2018, and are believed to be still in Kansas in the state of Missouri.

Data from online flight tracking website FlightRadar shows that Z-RGM, now a 15-year-old plane, on January 16 went on a test flight from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport located in Subang before returning to the same airport after a one-hour, 49-minute flight over the Strait of Malacca during which it climbed to 40,000 feet.

The test flight was in preparation for its delivery to Zimbabwe on Monday. Matiza will be on the aircraft which is expected to land at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport at 12.30PM.

The Zimbabwe government desperately wants to shore up Air Zimbabwe, which is now operating just one plane and is weighed down by debts of up to US$300 million.

The 777s will allow Air Zimbabwe to resume overseas flights to the United Kingdom and China, which were abandoned in 2011 amid threats to seize their aircraft by some creditors.

Air Zimbabwe last year took delivery of an Embraer ERJ145 from the United States. The airline has struggled to push through the aircraft's registration, however, after reportedly failing to satisfy know-your-customer requirements over suspicions of money laundering in the original acquisition by Zimbabwe Airways.

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Source - zimlive