By Daniel Chigundu
DR Karikoga Kaseke has said the Air Zimbabwe board is to blame for the poor service and state of affairs at the national airline which has hurtled from one operational challenge to another in the past decade.
Air Zimbabwe is saddled in a huge debt, has been making losses consistently and is stuck with old fleet planes that badly need upgrading but due to lack of finances, it is not able to do so.
So dire is the situation that the airline has had to abandon most of its lucrative routes for fear of having the last of its planes impounded by international creditors.
Addressing the media at a post-Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo in Bulawayo, Dr Kaseke said the fact that Air Zimbabwe junior staff has been able to put up winning exhibition stands every year, is a sign that they are not to blame for the poor state of affairs.
“What it means is that when Air Zimbabwe are winning every year, they have the potential to do better in their business, because what is happening the stands are not done by the board, the stands are done by junior staff management who come here spend days putting up the stands overnight preparing for Sanganai/Hlanganani.
“But failure for their airline to perform we can’t blame it on these young people, they have young people who are committed, who are enthusiastic, if the airline is not performing blame it elsewhere, starting from the board going up.
“Yes I mean it, blame it from the board going up don’t blame it on management who are just doing their job even if they put poor management and management are wrong you blame it on the board, because the board is the one that puts management in place, you don’t blame the airline management,” he said.
The poor state of affairs at Air Zimbabwe is reportedly affecting tourism and has caused the country to perform badly in terms of attracting tourists from such lucrative markets as China which is arguably the largest source of outbound tourists in the world according to UNWTO.
Zimbabwe used to do well in the Chinese outbound market when Air Zimbabwe was still flying to China around 2011 but from the time it decided to stop the country has experienced a huge slump.
According to Steven Kezhao from Wild Africa Travel, Chinese travellers are not happy with coming to Zimbabwe using connecting flights adding that they would prefer direct flights as was the situation in 2011 when the country got about 30 000 Chinese outbound tourists.
Zimbabwe’s tourism ambassador to Ghana Nancy Sam also told tourism delegates in Bulawayo that people from West Africa travel a lot adding that if Air Zimbabwe was to introduce a direct flight to that region the country would benefit greatly.
Meanwhile, Dr Kaseke said junior staff at Air Zimbabwe should not be blamed for the old equipment at the state airline, adding that the workers are committed but are being let down by senior management and the board.
“If you want to blame Air Zimbabwe for having old equipment blame it on the board, it’s not management fault, don’t blame management for things they are not responsible for and I am saying this with all my heart with all my soul and with my entire mind.
“Air Zimbabwe management when we work with them what they are showing us is that if they are given the right equipment, the right things they can do well, I am not talking about their senior management and chief executive officer that one is appointed by the shareholder, if the chief executive is corrupt and not working well blame it on the board.
“The shareholder they are responsible for choosing senior management of Air Zimbabwe, but the staff who put up the exhibition stand they are doing a splendid piece of work meaning they have potential to do a similar piece of work at the company,” he said.
Air Zimbabwe won a prize for having the Best Airline Stand during the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo and according to Dr Kaseke, the exhibition award has nothing to do with how the company is operating.