President Robert Mugabe and his family are shareholders in a new airline to be called Zimbabwe Airways, a private newspaper has claimed.
Respected business weekly the Financial Gazette says in its latest edition that "multiple aviation sources" have told the paper that Mugabe, 93, and his family are "beneficial shareholders" in the new company. The airline's holding company is reported to be registered in tax haven Mauritius.
The report has been impossible to confirm, and Transport Minister Joram Gumbo told the paper that the First Family – whose wealth and lavish spending are often a source of speculation in a country mired in economic crisis – is not in any way linked to the new airline.
The names of beneficial shareholders do not appear in company records.
The Financial Gazette says Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore played a key role in setting up the new firm, which would be given licences to fly to London and the Far East. Chikore is currently the chief operating officer at Air Zimbabwe, the state-owned airline. The company is saddled with more than $300-million debt and has been barred from flying to the EU. There is speculation that setting up a new airline may be a way of sidestepping the debt.
Reports say Zimbabwe Airways is set to lease planes from Malaysia Airlines.
"The law of the land does not allow a president to use his official position for personal gain," Jacob Mafume of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party said in a statement.