Boeing sucked into Zimbabwe Airways saga

Boeing sucked into Zimbabwe Airways saga
Published: 16 March 2019 (165 Views)
The world's largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of aircraft and other equipment - Boeing - has been sucked into the Zimbabwe Airways saga where the son-in-law of former president Robert Mugabe, Simba Chikore (alias Mutsahuni), was involved in massive corruption that prejudiced the country of huge amounts of money between 2017 and 2018.

America's biggest manufacturing exporter, Boeing, which also offers defence, space and security systems, and is a service provider of aftermarket support as well as performance-based logistics and training, worked for the irregularly-constituted Zimbabwe Airways without a contract, documents in The Herald's possession show.

Boeing had a contract with Air Zimbabwe in 2016 but transferred services to Zimbabwe Airways when the latter was controversially constituted as a new alternative, debt-free entity funded by Treasury.

Additionally, Boeing was paid money for the training of Mr Chikore, which never materialised as he was unable to fly the Zimbabwe Airways planes due to the absence of an Air Operators Certificate for the airline.

Interestingly, the Boeing team began cosying up to the Mugabe family and would attend State functions, indicating the hand of the former First Family in the affair. A source with intimate knowledge of the goings-on told The Herald this week that high-level meetings were held between Zimbabwean and American officials in 2016 to engage Boeing.

The Zimbabwean team included Chikore and a Captain Chitsike and the Boeing team consisted of the main consultant —  Michael Castle, Tim Sikora and Konisha Shetty — all from the Boeing Head Office in Seattle, United States.

"Boeing were paid US$1 030 500 by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for their services to help in the restructuring of the national airline," the source said.

By March Messrs Castle and Sikora were expected to be working with Zimbabwe Airways to set up the company and its systems including software, marketing, ticketing, branding and hiring of pilots and cabin crew.

Revealed our source: "The Boeing team was no longer working for Air Zimbabwe but were now working with Zimbabwe Airways even though they were still contractually bound to Air Zimbabwe and had received funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to assist in the restructuring of the national airline.

"From March 2017 when the Boeing team were in the country, they would attend state functions and were introduced to the former First Family."

The Herald is in possession of a picture in which Mr Sikora is seen with the former First Family and the business plan is in the hands of the former president, Robert Mugabe.

The next detail involved Mr Chikore's abortive training.

Said the source: "Boeing then organised for a chief pilot to be contracted by Zimbabwe Airways. The Chief Pilot was to help Simba Chikore get his certification.

"He was to be paid US$30 000 per month. The conundrum was that Zimbabwe Airways did not have any aircraft delivered yet, but once delivered, the Chief Pilot would fly the B777 with Simba in order for Simba to get his flying hours.

"The only problem was that the airline did not have an AOC (Air Operators Certificate). Ultimately, there was no work for the Chief Pilot to do but was to be paid anyway. The payment was to go to Boeing. Tangible work by Boeing was not evident," our source said.

Unimpeachable evidence also shows that Mr Chikore bulldozed the (then named) Harare International Airport to build a ticketing office for Zimbabwe Airways.

"They constructed the airport offices without a lease agreement being concluded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAZ).

"When asked by (property company named) about the rentals, Simba refused saying that he would not pay such amounts for airport property.

"To this day a lease still has not been concluded. The offices are vacant and are not being used."

The contractors used — and paid — for the airport offices were the same that were building Mr Chikore's private home in Umwinsdale, Harare.

For all the money that flew around, The Herald has it on good authority that, no statutory payment were made to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, including PAYE and sundry tax remittances from the period of 2017 to date.

- theh erald

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