FORMER Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive, Oscar Madombwe, is in trouble with the Minister of Transport and Communications Chris Mushohwe after he produc
ed an adverse report on the planes that government wanted to buy from Russia.
Government is currently negotiating to buy Russia’s Ilyushin and Tupolev planes. According to information to hand, Madombwe, who was expected to be appointed substantive chief executive after acting on two occasions, fell out with Mushohwe after compiling a report which discouraged government from buying planes from Russia.
Madombwe is understood to have told the government in the report that it was better to buy from reputable plane makers. He said Russian planes had a history of technical problems, something which will cost Air Zimbabwe a lot of money in the long run. Sources said the report angered Mushohwe who has been pushing for the Russian deal since last December.
Leo Mugabe, the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Communications this week alleged that Madombwe had been sent on forced leave.
“I don’t know what they are doing to him but Madombwe has not been coming to work for sometime now. Our investigations show that he might be on forced leave,” Mugabe said in an interview yesterday.
“We as a parliamentary committee have communicated the issue to the ministry and we hope the matter will be addressed soon. We cannot have professionals being victimised like that, especially when we already have a human resources problem in this country.”
Madombwe referred all questions to Air Zimbabwe board chairman, Mike Bimha and Mushohwe.
“I do not know where that is coming from. The best person to talk to is the minister or the (Air Zimbabwe) board chairman,” Madombwe said.
Mushohwe was said to be in Canada attending a International Civil Aviation Authority conference.
Businessdigest understands that he is scheduled to fly to Russia from Canada next week where he will team up with Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba to finalise the Russian planes deal.
Bimha said he was not able to comment on the adverse report that got Madombwe into trouble. He however said Madombwe was not on forced leave.
“He is on leave and not fired,” said Bimha. Sources said Mushohwe asked Madombwe to do an evaluation of the deal and to assess the technical capabilities of the Russian planes. Mushohwe said he needed the report to make an informed decision before going into the deal to buy the planes.
The source said Madombwe’s report expressed serious misgivings over the planned US$381,8 million deal. He raised concerns about the quality of the planes, adding the planes were well known for their technical faults and failures.
“An upset Mushohwe insisted that the deal would go through because he had already made the decision to buy the planes. He said Madombwe’s report would not be allowed to stand in the way of such a lucrative deal,” said a source close to the minister.
According to details of the deal Air Zimbabwe will get three IL 96-400 P for passengers and two IL-96-400 M for cargo. The planes will be delivered as soon as Zimbabwe government makes a 30% cash down payment which translates to US$114,5 million. The remaining 70% will be in the form of a loan.
Deliveries will start next year from the Voronezh Aircraft Construction Company (Vaco) plant once the final deal is signed.
The deal will be financed by Ilyushin Finance Co, one of two state run Russian companies involved in the domestic aircraft construction and sales programmes.
The Independent reported earlier this year that Zimbabwe’s plans to buy the planes had run into problems amid bribery allegations involving US$25 million.
Aviation sources said Mushohwe and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono last year left Russia in a huff after a dispute erupted during negotiations. The problem had started after the Russians demanded that Zimbabwe must pay in advance a “commission” of US$25 million which was to be shared equally among political and business “chefs” in Moscow and Harare to facilitate the deal.