HARARE – Zimbabwean and South African airlines resumed operations yesterday after a diplomatic standoff between the neighbouring countries grounded flights for almost two days from Friday evening.
South African aviation authorities banned all Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) flights in and out of that country on Friday and Zimbabwean authorities responded by grounding South African Airways (SAA) flights into and out of Harare.
The impasse came at a time when Zimbabwe and South Africa were engaged in a huge diplomatic fallout following an incident in which First Lady Grace Mugabe was facing arrest in South Africa for allegedly assaulting a 20-year-old model she found with her sons at a Johannesburg hotel on Monday, raising speculation that the whole drama was an extension of the whole political war.
The flights were grounded allegedly due to non-compliance with the aviation regulations, with both AirZim and SAA failing to produce the required foreign operators permits, together with other documents, which must be on-board an aircraft at all times, and made available for inspection on request by the relevant authorities.
However, flights resumed yesterday following interventions between the two countries’ ministers of Transport which broke the stalemate.
Zimbabwe’s Transport and Infrastructural Development minister, Joram Gumbo, confirmed the developments in an interview with the Daily News yesterday saying his South African counterpart, Joe Maswanganyi had initiated the negotiations.
“Both parties have now processed the required documents, and normal flights resumed this morning (yesterday morning),” Gumbo said.
Checks also confirmed that both AirZim and SAA Harare-Johannesburg flights took off at the Harare International Airport yesterday morning, while flights from OR Tambo International Airport into Harare had also materialised.
“Finally some progress. HRE – JNB has taken off. All should be normalised as the day goes regarding these permits,” reads an updated post on the official AirZim twitter handle yesterday.
SAA spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, was also quoted in the South African press confirming that flight SA025, which was grounded on Saturday, August 19 would depart Harare at 10:00am on Sunday, August 20.
Tlali added that SA022 would be the first flight from Johannesburg to Harare on Sunday, and was expected to depart at 10:45am.