Under-fire Transport minister Joram Gumbo has claimed that government kept the deal to register the new Zimbabwe Airways (Zim Airways) airline under wraps after advice that some former commercial white farmers wanted to attach its six planes from Malaysia, if they were in Air Zimbabwe (AirZim)’s name.
According to Gumbo, who has made headlines in the past weeks due to the planes deal, the farmers wanted the planes in compensation for their farms seized during the land reform programme.
He has been severely criticised for his role in the purchase of the planes and the establishment of Zim Airways and its sister company, the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC), which has been presumed to be a project of former president Robert Mugabe.
Gumbo said initially, government wanted to buy the planes for AirZim, but acclaimed audit firm, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC), advised them that it was unwise to do so because the planes would be attached in Malaysia once the former white farmers learnt of the purchase.
He said government misled the world into believing that Zim Airways and ZALC were privately-owned companies belonging to a group of Zimbabweans living outside the country to save the planes from being impounded
“That was a very straight forward deal. I don’t know why you should be having problems with us. We have come out clearly to say that they are government planes,” he told our sister publication, the Daily News in an interview last week.
“When we started negotiating for the Boeing 777ER planes from Malaysia, we were doing it for AirZim and in the process, when we were about to pay for the first aircraft, we were then advised by PWC, who were the negotiators with Air Malaysia, that if these planes are bought for Air Zim, they were going to be impounded by some white former commercial farmers whose land was acquired by government under the land reform programme,” Gumbo claimed.
“So, our negotiations . . . said since we can use a different company. We were discussing with PWC. We agreed that they (Malyasian Airways) could sell the planes to us.
“So I started negotiating to buy and so I informed government that I had clinched a deal with Air Malaysia to buy four Boeing 777 planes at $70 million for all of them and I thought this was a good deal for Zimbabwe,” he lamented.
Asked why government was now claiming ownership of the planes when it still owed the white former commercial farmers compensation money for the loss of their farms, Gumbo said the new era had seen Zimbabwe opening up to the world and there was nothing to hide anymore.
“President Mnangagwa has pledged to compensate those farmers and in line with the current thrust to re-engage with the world, we realised that there is nothing to hide anymore and we are setting the record straight,” he said.