Air Zimbabwe pilots, who have not received their pay since 2013 have told parliament that their conditions of service are so bad that some of their colleagues have left the state-controlled company for greener pastures. They said the situation has been worsened by the fact that the national airline does not have a substantive management team and board members with knowledge of the aviation industry.
Presenting their grievances on conditions of work and ideas of turning around the national airline, chairman of the pilots working under the Zimbabwe Flights Crew Association, said they are now only 35 pilots out of 60 in 2009 due to bad working conditions.
Zimbabwe Flights Crew Association chairman, Captain Otis Shonhai, said the pilots that have left Air Zimbabwe sought greener pastures outside the country.
“Even up to present day we haven’t got a proper working contract each one of us, there is no contract with the company. We are just on a working allowance that’s what we are getting right now but we have been professional enough and we will continue to be professional to say that if we decide to go and fly we will do our very best and bring people home safely or take them safely to their destination,” said Captain Shonhai.
He said pilots were expecting housing and vehicles loans like doctors, adding they also needed farming land.
Captain Shonhai said most of their grievances had not been addressed because the company has not had a substantive management team.
Association secretary, First Officer Gutu Kachambwa, concurred, noting that they believed most of the airline’s problems were a result of bureaucracy between the board and the ministry and lack people with aviation expertise in the board.
“If you look at Air Zimbabwe right now there is no substantive management team for three years everybody is acting and we are seating and doing nothing about it. You are giving people responsibility and you are not giving them authority so how are they going to run the airline?” said Kachambwa.
Two other pilots, who attended the parliamentary hearing, said Air Zimbabwe had a potential to operate efficiently and drive the country’s economy if the right decisions are made on time.
For example, Kachambwa said paying Zimbabwe’s outstanding International Air Transport Association would improve the company’s fortunes.
“Let’s get into the IATA clearing house, because IATA clearing house unlocks business value for us. It enables us to code share … so we are saying as a matter of urgency we know there is an amount which is owing to IATA and I don’t believe as a nation we can’t get that amount to pay toIATA,’ he said.
The two suggested that pilots get a seat on the Air Zimbabwe board and that the board itself be composed of people with knowledge of the aviation industry.
They also suggested the acquisition of new planes saying the company’s fleet was too old and costly to operate. The pilots added that reviving the London route would also raise money for the national airline.
Air Zimbabwe flies to Johannesburg, Tanzania, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls and the pilots said opening up more routes would create business for the airline.
Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo and acting Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer could not be reached for comment.
Transport committee chairperson, Dexter Nduma, said parliament was concerned with the plight of pilots and Air Zimbabwe in general and would engage government with a view to resolving its problems.
The company is saddled with debt amounting to more than $300 million, making it unattractive for any merger with international partners.