HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s state-owned airline has suspended flights to neighbouring South Africa over fears its planes could be seized for outstanding debts, a senior airline official told state media.
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Innocent Mavhunga said the corporation, which is struggling to pay off debts of over $140 million, had decided to temporarily stop its daily flights to Johannesburg to avoid creditors there.
“We are not flying into South Africa. We are trying to secure funding to pay our debts in South Africa,” he was reported as saying.
Mavhunga however was unavailable on Friday to explain why Air Zimbabwe was not worried about continuing flights to other foreign destinations, Lusaka in Zambia and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Earlier this week, Air Zimbabwe scrambled for days for money to save a Boeing 767-200 which had been impounded on landing at London’s Gatwick Airport after a U.S. firm, American General Supplies, got a court order for $1.2 million owed for aircraft spares.
Last week, a South African airport support services company, Bid Air, forced Air Zimbabwe to ground a plane in Johannesburg as it pressed for payment of a $500,000 debt.
Economic analysts say Air Zimbabwe is on the verge of collapse after years of mismanagement and poor funding by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
The suspension does not cut the Harare-Johannesburg route since South African Airways has three flights daily and British Airways’ Comair also has a daily flight.