HARARE – Zimbabweans vented their outrage yesterday over the appointment of President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law as chief operations officer of national airline Air Zimbabwe, a move seen as strengthening the autocrat’s control over national assets.
Air Zimbabwe chair Chipo Dyanda announced Simba Chikore’s appointment late on Tuesday, describing him as a pilot with “vast experience,” including with Qatar Airways.
Chikore, who married Mugabe’s only daughter Bona in 2014 during a luxurious ceremony, has up until now helped to manage the president’s dairy farm on the outskirts of the capital.
Little else is publicly known about the 39-year-old’s professional past. But in 2014, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that claims that Chikore worked as a pilot for Qatar Airways or Emirates were false.
“It’s a matter of public record that Mugabe has several farms and has interests in some companies,” Masimba Manyanya, a former chief economist in Zimbabwe’s Finance Ministry, told dpa.
“His relatives are occupying key positions and that speaks volumes in a country where poverty is rife. It amounts to corruption and nepotism,” Manyanya added.
Obert Gutu, spokesman of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the appointment equalled “plunder of state resources.”
The future of Air Zimbabwe has been rocky in recent months, due to regular flight cancellations, the inability to pay salaries and retrenchments.
Mugabe already appointed his nephew Patrick Zhuwao as youth and indigenisation minister and his nephew Albert Mugabe as head of the Zimbabwe National Road Authority.
Mugabe, 92, also placed his wife Grace strategically within the ruling party to succeed him.