What happened to Air Zimbabwe’s three MA60s?

Kounosu, CC BY-SA 3.0

After an audit reveals missing paperwork, Air Zimbabwe lands in hot water for three “missing” aircraft. 

In early July 2019, Air Zimbabwe came under fire when news emerged that the financially struggling airline is “missing” three aircraft. The news quickly sparkled an outrage on social media,  with assumptions quickly raising to version that aircraft were “stolen” or “lost”. 

The rumour emerged after the Auditor-General of Zimbabwe issued a disclaimer of opinion on June 20, 2019. In it, the auditor outlines that in 2011-2014 the airline operated three Chinese-made MA60 aircraft, but none of them were accounted for in the company’s financial statements. As neither lease nor sale agreements of the aircraft were found, the auditor could not determine a “correct accounting treatment” of them

In response to the backlash, the airline’s spokesperson Tafadzwa Mazonde told local media that Air Zimbabwe did not purchase the three MA60s ‒ the country’s government did. “For state enterprises, government comes in from time to time to offer shareholder support”. Thus, it is the government that should have the missing documents. Meanwhile, the aircraft are not missing and “anyone is free to come and see them”.

This is not the first time Zimbabwean airlines’ fleet becomes a mystery. Intentions of another state-owned airline, Zimbabwe Airways, to acquire four second-hand Boeing 777s also turned into a scandal:

Air Zimbabwe is one of six airlines around the globe banned within European Union airspace due to security concerns within the company. The airline is so neck-deep into its debts (reportedly exceeding $370 million), that in 2011 one of its planes was seized in London (UK) over an unpaid $1,2 million debt for spares. 

MA60 is a Chinese-made short range regional turboprop jet developed by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (now part of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)). The aircraft entered service in 2000. In May 2018, Xinhuanet reported that over 100 aircraft (combined of both MA60 and MA600 ‒ an upgraded version of the former) were already delivered, half of which (57) went to non-Chinese customers.

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