By Eugene Majuru
AIR Zimbabwe staff who used to ply the popular Harare-London route have been accused of pilfering customers’ parcels sent from Britain.
Investigations by ZimDiaspora showed that several air hostess who diverted the parcels from mostly bread-winners toiling in the United Kingdom to their personal after being entrusted with goods varying from mobile phones, cameras, clothes and cash.
Air Zimbabwe suspended the London-Harare route after one of its planes was impounded in Britain over an outstanding debt. The government made a last-minute payment to rescue the plane from being auctioned.
But the staff at the national airline also tainted the already damaged reputation of the company after embezzling the much-needed goods by struggling families in Zimbabwe.
It is said the airliner staff also bleed the company of thousands of dollars after benefiting heavily subsided fares at a time when the parastatal was battling crippling challenges.
A Zimbabwean working in Manchester identified as Audrey was ripped off by air hostess who disappeared with a consignment of wedding dresses which were supposed to be delivered in Harare.
Audrey told ZimDispora that the air hostess promised to get the dresses to their destination on time but this was not the case as she played hide and seek. The unscrupulous air hostess then ignored numerous phone calls and also claimed to be busy.
“We requested the air hostess to give us her home address so that someone in Zimbabwe could pick up the dresses but to no avail,” said a bitter Audrey.
It also emerged that a woman who sent items through Wonder Maroto with a suitcase containing many items which included an instant camera and clothes was also frustrated after the man failed to deliver the goods on time. Maroto took the goods to his residence where his children used the camera before it was delivered to the sender’s family. Other items were also found to be missing.
Questioned about such a shameful act Maroto denied having knowledge of using the camera even though the evidence was all before him.
On another occasion Maroto was given 30kgs of items to take to Harare but according to him he had left the other 10 kgs behind in Leeds as he had not received the payment.
In November last year, Maroto failed to deliver a consignment of scientific calculators and mathematical.
Another very disturbing incident involved Stella Gondo who is also in the same business of taking parcels to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom. Gondo is known to have delivered goods with certain items missing. She was paid for taking 40kgs to Harare and among those goods included a basic mobile phone with a camera which was meant to be a gift for some old man.
She did not deliver the mobile phone but instead claimed money for it claiming it had been impounded by customs as she had failed to pay customs duty.
Gondo`s statement was checked and verified by the sender from the United Kingdom who directly rang customs at Harare Airport enquiring about the phone. The sender was horrified to hear that customs did not even have a mobile phone in their store room and that they had not impounded any phone for several months.
On confronting Gondo she is said to have become verbally abusive claiming that she would not release the phone unless she was paid money to pay at customs.
She was supported by her husband who then claimed he had paid for the phone with his money.
A recent incident involved a John Marange who was given 27kgs of goods to take to Harare. Marange was advised he would be paid his money in Harare. Marange was agreeable to this arrangement and he gave the assurance that the goods would be handed over on payment of the money.
After collecting the goods Marange changed his flight days five times on all occasions failed to notify the sender that he was not flying on scheduled dates.
The sender had become worried as some of the items were for school children who were going to boarding school. In the end the children had to leave for boarding school without the items.
On Marange`s arrival in Harare he made a U-turn and demanded the $400 without delivering the goods claiming he needed the money to collect the goods at customs.
The intended recipient was agreeable to that provided they both went to the airport together to collect the goods but Marange would not hear of this. There was a 4 day delay until the intended recipient decided to pay him the money and wait for the goods although she was not happy by the change of goal posts.
Marange was said to have brought the goods the following day and demanded an extra $150 for storage charges. He failed to produce the receipt to prove he had paid $150.
The lady had to pay a total of $550 in order to get the items but several items were also missing.
One lady, Happiness based in Nottingham sent one air hostess with a box containing a stereo, mobile phones and other valuable goods but these were not delivered and she has since stopped communicating with the air hostess as she has failed to get her items back.
Surely this kind of dishonesty and greed is not acceptable; it causes a lot of inconveniences and heartaches to the senders and recipients who end up losing.
At the same time if these staff members are not honest they will end up losing the business. They are the ones who tarnish the image of the airline as well.
To those who engage services of Air Zimbabwe staff to carry their goods, a word of advice would be to list all items sent and make sure the recipient checks and ticks off item by item. This may help but if dealing with such characters be prepared for theft of items, delays or damages to goods.