There is a major cover up that is going on in Zimbabwe concerning the corruption scandal in the purchase of of four Boeing 777 planes from Malaysia and eight Embraer aircraft allegedly from Brazil. The scandal has so far sucked in former President Robert Mugabe, his son-in-law Simba Chikore, current minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa, minister of Transport Joram Gumbo.
By Freeman Chari
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Transport Minister Joram Gumbo released an undated joint statement chronicling that the purchase was an initiative of Air Zimbabwe. In the statement, Air Zimbabwe approached the State Procurement Board (SPB) in October 2016 seeking authority to purchase the 4 Boeing 777 second hand aircraft from Malaysia. This was approved in November 2016. Government through the Finance Ministry then secured funds to purchase two Boeing 777 and an Ambraer plane under a Special Purpose Vehicle called Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC). The government then decided to lease the planes to a third party Zimbabwe Airways until Air Zimbabwe develops a viable business plan.
A close look would reveal that there is more to this than is being said. Air Zimbabwe has been involved in a number of scandals that have left the institution reeling in massive debt. The company has failed to ply lucrative routes because of its depleted fleet and its massive debt which has seen creditors seeking orders to impound the few remaining planes.
The plan to start Zimbabwe Airways was hatched in 2013 at the recommendation of British multi-millionaire, Nicholas van Hoogstraten. Hoostraten had proposed a deal in which he would offset some of the parastatal’s debt , inject $15 million and also purchase two B-777 planes. The conditions would be that a new company would be formed and register in London, fully controlled by the British businessman.
The proposal was shot down by the Ozias-Bvute-led board. Nothing was ever heard of the plan. On 4th October 2016 President Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore was appointed COO of Air Zimbabwe just in time for him to travel with Mugabe and Minister Joram Gumbo to Malaysia where the negotiations to purchase the planes were done. This was after Joram Gumbo had been spurned by Ethiopian Airlines a month before.
On his second day at work Simba was already representing Air Zimbabwe without even meeting the Chipo Dyanda-led Air Zimbabwe board. Both Chipo Dyanda and then CEO Ripton Muzenda were unaware of the negotiations in Malaysia. Both Chinamasa and Gumbo are therefore not telling the truth that Air Zimbabwe initiated the request to the SPB. It may be assumed that Simba Chikore might have applied on behalf of Air Zimbabwe without the knowledge of his CEO and Board. This might explain why Ripton Muzenda was latter fired from the airline. Now this would be real corruption!
If indeed it is true that the State Procument Board approved the purchase of the 12 planes without going to tender or gazetting it then this was all done in contravention of the the Procurement Act Chapter 22:14. In this regard the Ministers have to be held accountable and resign or be fired.
When Minister Joram Gumbo was quized about the departure of Simba Chikore from Air Zimbabwe in November 2017, he said that Simba had left to join Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company which at the time he said was a firm comprising enterprising Zimbabweans interested in aviation. In the statement joint statement, Minister Gumbo say ZALC is actually a Special Purpose Vehicle.
Although the Statement did not specify the ownership of the ZALC, The Chronicle newspaper which is government controlled reported that it is wholly owned by the government. The question we ought to ask the minister is why he is always contradicting himself. If indeed ZALC has other contributors, it is only prudent that the minister tells the nation who the other shareholders are. We would like to know the percentage that is owned by other shareholders and their names.
Finally, Zimbabwe Airways. Who owns it? We know that it is registered under file 3015/12 but that file is missing at the companies’ registry in Harare. Why is it missing?
Zimbabweans deserve to know the people who got tax payer money to purchase 12 aircraft. We need to know how the money was sourced. We need to know who is accountable.
If indeed President Munagagwa is a new broom as he claims, these are the questions he needs to answer to the nation. He has to hold Joram Gumbo and Chinamasa to account.
I doubt he will!