Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
AIR Zimbabwe former acting chief executive Captain Oscar Madombwe has emerged as one of the candidates shortlisted to take over as substantive CEO of the national airline, sources have said.
Air Zimbabwe, reeling under financial stress is searching for a chief executive and recently conducted interviews for shortlisted candidates. Captain Madombwe left Air Zimbabwe almost a decade ago following an alleged “fall out” with the shareholder.
Mr Edmund Makona is the acting chief executive.
“The interviews were recently conducted after six candidates were shortlisted,” said an official with Air Zim.
“It is an ongoing process and the Government is keen to see a substantive CEO appointed for rapid formulation of the turnaround strategy.”
No official comment could be obtained from Air Zimbabwe by the time of going to print yesterday. Government, which owns Air Zim is in the process of identifying a strategic partner.
The company is saddled with debts amounting close to $300 million and negotiations were in progress with the Government for takeover of the State air carrier’s debts to enable it to lure investors. Of the debt, about $272 million is local.
Air Zim has been facing financial and operational challenges, which has seen it failing to service its traditional routes and occasionally suspending regional and domestic flights.
Previously known for excellence in service provision, Air Zimbabwe was forced to suspend flights sometimes in 2011 due to protracted labour disputes and fuel shortages.
Last year, Mr Makona told Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development that the company required $260 million to recapitalise. Mr Makona also said the management and the board had crafted a four-year recovery.
Analysts say it is time the Government moves in with speed and enlist services of a competent management capable of turning around the business.
“Air Zimbabwe’s brand is battered and you need the right skills to undo all the damage and turning the business into a profitable entity,” said an economic analyst with local research firm.
“We would want to see Air Zimbabwe increasing flight capacity between the country and regional and international destinations. This will help growing Zimbabwe’s trade tourism business.” Zimbabwe is targeting to generate $5 billion from the tourism industry by 2018. Air Zim’s inefficiencies have seen competitors penetrating routes it previously served and may face serious challenges in reclaiming the market.