MP says if you inject $10 billion into Air Zimbabwe today, they will be back asking for more money next year

MP for Mabvuku James Maridadi

The Member of Parliament for Mabvuku-Tafara, James Maridadi, says Zimbabwe’s parastatals are so badly run that even if you inject $10 billion into Air Zimbabwe today, it will be back asking for more money from the government next year.

He said none of the country’s 92 parastatals is making a profit.

“Today, if we take $10 billion and inject it into Air Zimbabwe, I can guarantee you that next year, they will go to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development seeking bail out money,” he told Parliament.

He said although Air Zimbabwe’s planes were old, its problem was really bad management. It did not have the right people.

“We can give Air Zimbabwe all the modern aeroplanes today and next year, those aeroplanes will not have been serviced or insured and they will be grounded.  Mr. Speaker, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Airways, if she/he loses the Harare –Johannesburg route, she or he loses his/her job,” he said.

“It is the second most lucrative route for South African Airways.  That is why they put six aeroplanes on that route every day.  They have a 0730 hours, 13:30 hourd and a 16:30 hourd flight on a daily basis because they are making a profit.  Air Zimbabwe, who are the owners of the route from Harare to Johannesburg do not have a single flight on that route.  What is going on?”

“In 2010, US$300 million was injected into Air Zimbabwe with 28 directors and 800 employees manning three aeroplanes.  That money went down the drain and it is now housed with this outfit called Zimbabwe Asset Management Company.  The reason why that debt was taken out of Air Zimbabwe is because Hon. Chinamasa was trying to clean the Air Zimbabwe Balance Sheet so that it could attract investors because you cannot attract investors if your balance sheet is in such shambles.”

Maridadi said his solution was that Air Zimbabwe should employ the right people.

“Now, here is my solution to Air Zimbabwe.  Mr. Speaker Sir, employ the right people. It does not really matter if the person is good looking, dresses well and it does not matter who they are related to.  They must have the qualifications of running an air line.

“I do not know where this notion came from that if somebody is a trained pilot, they can run an airline, it does not follow.  You can be the best pilot in the world and fail to run an airline.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, it is like somebody who was once a soccer star of the year – for example George Shaya was a soccer star of the year five times, but it does not make him a good coach. You can get someone like Charles Mhlauri who only played division two soccer but he took Zimbabwe to Tunisia form Africa Cup of Nations.

“So, Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Minister must get good people to run Air Zimbabwe.  Commercialization, yes, but it is not the panacea.  The business model they are using at Air Zimbabwe is a 1976 Ian Smith business model; it does not work in 2017. We are now computerised.  There were no computers in 1976.”

Full contribution

HON. MARIDADI: Thank you Hon. Speaker.  I am unfortunately one of those who is going to try and close the stable door after the horse has bolted because I should have discussed earlier.  That as it may Mr. Speaker, the issue of commercialisation, is something that we should put thought into.  This is for the reason that commercialisation alone is not the panacea to profitability.  It must be linked to good management and a good business model.  It does not really matter what you do, competitiveness, profitability and sustainability of a business are a function of a business model.  Mr. Speaker Sir, a business model is a function of two major matrices, SWOT and your PESTEL, I will not dwell on that.

There are airlines today, which use a Government business model and are profitable. For example, Emirates, Qatar, British Airways (BA), Singapore and Scandinavia, they are all Government-linked and profit making.  What I would like to tell the Hon. Minister is that, throughout the world, there is no transport business which makes huge profit.  Transport is margin business, be it an airline, road transport like buses, lorries or emergency taxis and so on.  For as long as it is transport business, the profit is marginal meaning that it must be run efficiently.  How do you run it efficiently?  Government, especially that of Zimbabwe, has no record of running things efficiently.  Look at all the parastatals under the Government.  Of the 92 or so parastatals, not a single one of them is making a profit.

Mr. Speaker Sir, what has happened?  In 1980, 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was contributed by parastatals.  I am talking of Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC), National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and Cold Storage Commission (CSC).  Today, if we take $10 billion and inject it into Air Zimbabwe, I can guarantee you that next year, they will go to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development seeking bail out money.

The issue of old aeroplanes has nothing to do with management.  We can give Air Zimbabwe all the modern aeroplanes today and next year, those aeroplanes will not have been serviced or insured and they will be grounded.  Mr. Speaker, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Airways, if she/he loses the Harare –Johannesburg route, she or he loses his/her job.  It is the second most lucrative route for South African Airways.  That is why they put six aeroplanes on that route every day.  They have a 0730 hours, 13:30 hourd and a 16:30 hourd flight on a daily basis because they are making a profit.  Air Zimbabwe, who are the owners of the route from Harare to Johannesburg do not have a single flight on that route.  What is going on?

I spoke to one of the strategic managers for South African Airways and he said, if you want to sabotage the CEO just go and mess up Zimbabwe so that it bans South African Airways from plying on the Harare – Johannesburg route and the job is gone.  In addition to the six aeroplanes they put on the Zimbabwe Johannesburg route, they have put a direct flight from Harare to Durban and another from Harare to Cape Town and they are making a profit.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I flew to Johanesburg, South Africa with Hon. Paradza over the Christmas holiday and the flight was full.

THE HON. SPEAKER: Which one?

HON. MARIDADI: South African Airways.  It was full and there were people on standby.  The reason we used South African Airways is that, I personally inquired from Air Zimbabwe and I was told that they were not online and were going to come back to me during the course of the day to confirm if they had seats available.  That did not happen during the day.  I went back again the following day to make another inquiry and they did not come back to me.  For the reason that I wanted to travel on a particular day, I had no choice but to go with South African Airways.  On that particular day, a friend of mine also wanted to fly Johannesburg but could not do so because the flight did not take off.

What it tells me is that the aeroplane could not start the engine; the engine could not start – [Laughter.] – As if that is not bad enough Mr. Speaker, when you fly on South African Airways from Harare to Johannesburg, your departure tax is built into your ticket price.  However, when you fly Air Zimbabwe, you must pay your departure tax separately because it is supposed to go to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).   The CAA said if Air Zimbabwe bills the departure tax together with the airfare, they will not remit it.  What it means is that Civil Aviation Authority would rather do business with Qatar, Ethiopian Airlines or South African Airways than with Air Zimbabwe.  That means there is something fundamentally wrong with Air Zimbabwe.

Mr. Speaker Sir, South African Airlines has 63 aeroplanes.  In 2015, they had 72, which means they have sold of nine others.  The oldest of the nine which they sold was 16 years old.  The reason is that when it is above 15 years old, it is very expensive to operate.  Air Zimbabwe operates an aeroplane which is 30 years old, it is old, and that is ancient.  I have a friend of mine who is a pilot and he says today’s aeroplanes can be flown by any fool. All you need to do is to be able to take off and when you reach the flying altitude, you can sit back.  The aeroplane will maneuver itself and land itself.  However, with Air Zimbabwe, you hear the pilots practically calculating using pencils saying, I am 100 metres above the ground and so on – [Laughter.] – they will be talking all the way.  It is like they are at a beer drink all the way.

When you fly on the Ethiopian Airlines, the pilot will simply take off and just 25 seconds after takeoff, the bells ring and it means one can undo the safety belts and you can see the pilot coming from the cockpit to sit and have tea with passengers.  It will be on auto-pilot.  None of the aircraft at Air Zimbabwe can be on auto-pilot.  One day we flew from Harare to the Budget Seminar in Victoria Falls and all the way, there was a hissing sound coming from the door and one of the ladies said it was because the door could not be closed properly. However, the pressure in an aeroplane is pressurised and if there is outside air interfering with what is inside, it will go down.  Mr. Speaker Sir, what it means is that your Members of Parliament, about 120 of them could have gone down.  On the way back from Victoria Falls, I boarded a bus, I could not fly with Air Zimbabwe because I have a family to look after, I do not want to die – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] –

Mr. Speaker Sir, Hon. Mliswa spoke about money being injected into Air Zimbabwe.  In 2010, US$300 million was injected into Air Zimbabwe with 28 directors and 800 employees manning three aeroplanes.  That money went down the drain and it is now housed with this outfit called Zimbabwe Asset Management Company.  The reason why that debt was taken out of Air Zimbabwe is because Hon. Chinamasa was trying to clean the Air Zimbabwe Balance Sheet so that it could attract investors because you cannot attract investors if your balance sheet is in such shambles.

However, if you look at Air Zimbabwe today, it is already in the red.  The business model of Air Zimbabwe Hon. Minister – I sympathise with you, you are such a good person.  However, the way you are tying to do it with Air Zimbabwe will not work until the second coming of Jesus.  Jesus will have to come for the second time or the third time, but Air Zimbabwe will remain unprofitable.

Now, here is my solution to Air Zimbabwe.  Mr. Speaker Sir, employ the right people – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – it does not really matter if the person is good looking, dresses well and it does not matter who they are related to.  They must have the qualifications of running an air line.  I do not know where this notion came from that if somebody is a trained pilot, they can run an airline, it does not follow.  You can be the best pilot in the world and fail to run an airline.  Mr. Speaker Sir, it is like somebody who was once a soccer star of the year – for example George Shaya was a soccer star of the year five times, but it does not make him a good coach. You can get someone like Charles Mhlauri who only played division two soccer but he took Zimbabwe to Tunisia form Africa Cup of Nations.  So, Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Minister must get good people to run Air Zimbabwe.  Commercialization, yes, but it is not the panacea.  The business model they are using at Air Zimbabwe is a 1976 Ian Smith business model; it does not work in 2017. We are now computerised.  There were no computers in 1976.

When you want to fly on South African Airways, all you need to do is go to your cell phone, make a booking on line, get an e-ticket and you walk to the airport.  You just tell them your name and you get a boarding pass.   However, Air Zimbabwe today, I can write a boarding pass at my house and go and board Air Zimbabwe – how do they know that this person has not booked with them when they are not on line.  I can actually sell counterfeit tickets for Air Zimbabwe, give people boarding passes and they can go and fly because Air Zimbabwe is not online.  A person can argue their case saying no, I got this ticket from your Harare office and they will fly because Air Zimbabwe is not online.  What happens at the Harare office is not known at the airport because the two are not interlinked.

Mr. Speaker, in today’s aviation, when you are flying Emirates, they will tell you that we have closed the aeroplane; you actually see the door of the aeroplane open, the pilots are chatting away but they will tell you that the door has been closed because on their computer, the door would have been closed in Qatar.  You go there and argue that but the door is open, they will tell you no, it is closed.  What they really mean is that all the people are on board, the luggage is also on board; all they are doing is wait for their time to taxi and take off.  This is the age of computers but Air Zimbabwe have to physically close the door, a woman will have to come and physically close the door then they will tell you that the door is closed and you actually see the pilots climbing into the aeroplane as if they are climbing a mountain.

Hon. Minister, Zimbabwe has educated people who can come up with good documents.  I have always said this and I will repeat it.  The problem that we have in Zimbabwe is that people have a tendency of writing CV’s where they have seven degrees.  Seven degrees do not rum an institution, it is the skill Mr. Speaker.  Our Government must have a template of how people must present their CV’s and they must have a template of how people must be interviewed.

Mr. Speaker, when you are employing somebody to run Air Zimbabwe, allow them to give you their qualifications in one sentence either they have LLB and you know what it means; I have an MBA we know what it means but the tendency is that I have a B.A from University of Zimbabwe then they list all the subjects they did on a whole page with another three pages of additional qualifications.  What you need to do when you interview people Hon. Minister is that tell us what your plan of turning around Air Zimbabwe is.  We do not want to see where you went to school, we do not want to know your classmates, we do not want to know whom you had dinner with, we do not even want to know whom you sleep with. That is your business, all what we want to know is how you are going to turn around this business.  When we interview you, we are saying – I have always said this and I will continue saying it.  We have people who are running parastatals that have failed to run their own homes.  A person who has failed to his run own home, a person who has failed to manage one woman at his house, how then do they manage 800 employees?

Mr. Speaker, we are saying that apart from your skills, tell us your personal life.  It has an implication on how you run our institution.  There are people today who are of no fixed aboard, they are given parastatals to run because he has three degrees and whatever else.  Hon. Minister, going forward, we need a proper business model for the airline and there are many of them.  Ethiopian Airlines, their business model is that wherever they are flying to and wherever they are flying from, you must pass through Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.  If you are flying from Mozambique to Kenya, you pass through Addis Ababa; it is now the hub of aviation in Africa.  Why can Zimbabwe not be a hub of aviation in this part of Africa, it can be done.

Hon. Minister, please go through the CV’s of all the people that are employed at Air Zimbabwe.  Those that are related to us, please give them a package and let them go and employ people who can run that airline properly, effectively and efficiently.  Thank you.

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