‘Nothing political about grounding flights between Zim, SA’

Zimbabwe's transport minister says neither airline has complied with regulations required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

FILE: An Air Zimbabwe flight. Picture: Facebook.

HARARE - Despite several days of tensions over allegations of the assault of a South African woman by Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's transport minister insists there's nothing political about the grounding of South African Airways (SAA) and Air Zimbabwe planes this weekend.

Minister Joram Gumbo says neither airline has complied with international aviation regulations.

An SAA flight was stopped from taking off from Harare International Airport on Saturday morning.

There are unconfirmed claims that passengers had to wait for some time inside the plane before they were finally told it wasn’t leaving.

Saturday’s grounding comes as Air Zimbabwe says one of its planes was prevented from leaving Johannesburg on Friday evening.

Now Gumbo says neither airline has complied with regulations required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

He has told state ZBC that both parties failed to renew their foreign operating licences and this is not a political issue.

Meanwhile, SAA says it's taken a decision to cancel all flights between South Africa and Zimbabwe for the whole of Saturday.

The SAA says it was taken by surprise when it was told that it's required to produce a foreign operator’s permit by the Zimbabwean authorities, despite operating in the country for over two decades.

The national carrier says it hopes to resume normal operations by Sunday, adding that negotiations with Zimbabwean authorities are underway.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said, “We are awaiting the decision by the Zimbabwean authorities to give us clearance to be able to operate. SAA apologises to its passengers and customers for the inconvenience that has been caused by this incident and the matter is receiving required and urgent attention in order to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

Additional reporting by Koketso Motau.