Monday, January 09, 2012

Vietnam Bars President Robert Mugabe’s Plane From Its Airspace

Harare, January 09, 2012 - Air Zimbabwe has delayed President Robert Mugabe’s return from his holiday in the Far East after an Air Zimbabwe long haul aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 which left Harare International Airport on Friday was barred from flying over Vietnam’s airspace.

The plane was on its way from China to Singapore to pick up the Zimbabwean leader, who has been holidaying in the Far East since last month.

Informed sources disclosed that Air Zimbabwe was denied flying rights over Vietnam from China and had to use a longer route which flies through the South China Sea and hence delayed Mugabe’s early return from his holiday by several hours. Mugabe was due to arrive at Harare International Airport at around 21.00 pm on Sunday.

Sources said the flight hurdles could have been caused by the long suspension of Air Zimbabwe’s flights to China and the Far East. Last month the national airline suspended flights to China and Malaysia because of fuel shortages and also stopped international flights to London and Johannesburg to avoid the impounding of its aircrafts which were seized at Gatwick International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport last month over debts owed to a US and South African firm.

“The Air Zimbabwe plane took a longer route that planned on our way to Singapore because we didn’t have clearance codes to navigate through Vietnam’s airspace,” said the sources.

Last month Air Zimbabwe failed to ferry President Mugabe to his holiday destination as its only operational long haul aircraft was impounded in London over a US$1.2 million debt and later developed a technical fault which was only fixed out of Mugabe’s departure schedule.

This forced Mugabe to rely on an unnamed local diamond mining company which leased a plane for him to travel to Singapore.

Meanwhile a former Air Zimbabwe employee has added fresh misery to the country’s ailing state-run airline after impounding four vehicles to recover his terminal benefits after quitting employment early last year.

The Sheriff last week attached four vehicles including a Mercedes Benz belonging to the airline’s acting chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga to recover US$49 206.81 owed to Ian Dudman, a former Air Zimbabwe pilot who resigned in March last year.

The seizure of the airline’s property followed high court Judge Justice Tedious Karwi’s ruling which was granted late last year ordering Air Zimbabwe to pay Dudman his dues. Justice Karwi also
ordered Air Zimbabwe to pay 5% interest on the outstanding terminal benefits. This was after the former pilot took Air Zimbabwe to court in May last year seeking to recover US$49 206.81 in unpaid salaries, allowances and terminal benefits after he parted ways with the ailing national airline in March.

Despite being served with summons to pay Dudman his monies, Air Zimbabwe chose not to settle his dues forcing Dudman’s lawyers of Coghlan, Welsh and Guest Legal Practitioners to attach and take into execution three Mercedes Benz Compressor vehicles and a commuter omnibus.

The three Mercedes Benz Compressor vehicles belong to Mavhunga, Moses Mapanda, the airline’s general manager for passenger services and Nicholas Munjere, the general manager for finance.

The impounding of the airline’s vehicles follows the seizure of Air Zimbabwe’s planes in South Africa and the United Kingdom by Bid Air Services and American General Supplies over debts amounting to US$500 000 and US$1.2 million respectively.

Apart from the threat of the seizure of the airline’s assets, Air Zimbabwe is also confronted with wild cat strikes, where workers regularly stage protests at the airline’s headquarters demanding payment of their salaries, which haven’t been paid for the past seven months while only two planes are operational at the moment as other aircrafts including the Chinese-made Modern Arch 60 are grounded due to technical faults.

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