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Zimbabwe Airways jets put on sale

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THE four Boeing 777 – 200 passenger jets which Zimbabwe tried to buy from Malaysia Airways in a clandestine deal in 2016 are now back on the market — and for much less than what Zimbabwe had been made to pay.

While Zimbabwe had been charged US$70 million for the four planes, translating to US$17,5 million per plane, they are now being sold for US$12,5 million each.

The sale is being handled by Atmosphere Intercontinental Airlines, a family-owned aircraft operator headquartered in the UK but with operations in Dubai and Thailand, among other cities.

The purchase of the plane and three others from Malaysian Airways was negotiated by former president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore.

The national carrier Air Zimbabwe was not chosen to take on the new planes, not least because it was bankrupt.

A new airline, Zimbabwe Airways, was created to operate the new aircraft because insiders said this company would not inherit the state airline’s massive debts.

Chikore negotiated a deal with Malaysian Airlines from its stock of 17 similar planes that it no longer uses. These 300-seater aircraft, Zimbabwe aviation experts said, would have been too big and expensive to run for the country’s established airline routes.

Air Zimbabwe had one long-haul flight to the UK but can no longer fly the route for safety reasons.

The first of the Boeing aircraft arrived in Harare in May 2018, and on hand to welcome it was Chikore, previously a pilot with Air Zimbabwe and Qatar Airways, who failed his practical test for promotion to the rank of captain.

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He never had any commercial experience before he set up the deal with Malaysian Airways. Also without experience, he was previously made chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe, but quit this job after Mugabe was ousted last year.

There were no Zimbabwean pilots qualified to fly these aircraft, nor ground crew to service them.

Transport Minister Joram Gumbo said Chikore was brought in on a voluntary basis to help secure the deal, and he had not been paid.

Chikore has persistently refused to comment on why he was brought in when there were many Zimbabwean experts better qualified than him. 


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