Zimbabwean Deputy Transport Minister Tichaona Mudzingwa said Thursday that the cash-strapped government is unlikely to bail out Air Zimbabwe, paralyzed for a month by a strike by pilots demanding two months' back wages and allowances.
Mudzingwa said Finance Minister Tendai Biti has rejected a proposed US$9.2 million financial rescue package which would enable Air Zimbabwe to settle with the pilots, citing heavy state debts and challenges covering recently boosted public service salaries.
He said that as the ZANU PF side of the Harare government has rejected proposals to partially privatize Air Zimbabwe, market forces will determine the airline’s future.
Sources said the proposed rescue – which would be the second in five months – has divided the government. ZANU PF has demanded that Biti bail out the airline, whose flights have often been preempted by President Robert Mugabe's travel schedule.
Mudzingwa said Zimbabwean entrepreneurs should seize the opportunity and launch competing carriers in the country.
Economic commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga said Harare should consider simply pulling the plug on the troubled carrier, as the current strike does not affect most people.
“As far as I am concerned the government has to abandon the national airline as it does not even contribute anything to the economy of the country,” Mhlanga said.