The department on Saturday said the aircraft was grounded allegedly due to non-compliance with the South African Civil Aviation regulations.
The department said the Air Zimbabwe flights’ main issue was the required Foreign Operators Permit, 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.
“As a result, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has instructed the operator not to take off until such time that there is full compliance with the applicable South African civil aviation regulations and the requisite international aviation standards as set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
Maswanganyi apologised for inconveniences that might have been caused to passengers, the department said.
“In the same vein, the Minister emphasised that civil aviation safety and security is critical, and all licence and permit holders operating into and within the South African airspace need to comply with the applicable international standards, and the South African civil aviation regulations.”
The Friday flight was set to take off for Harare shortly after 18:00, but was cancelled before then.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are in South Africa for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting underway in Pretoria.
‘The silence is deafening’
Mugabe’s personal airplane, operated by Air Zimbabwe, is not believed to be affected by the cancellation.
DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance Alf Lees however, disagreed saying the grounding flights, between SAA and Air Zimbabwe, seemed to be due to the diplomatic impasse over the assault charges against Zimbabwean First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
“Now, it seems that tensions between Zimbabwe and South Africa are mounting, leading to airlines being grounded.”
He called on Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to urgently address “these concerning incidents”.
“The silence from our government on the Grace Mugabe matter has been deafening. The reality is that the South African government has completely mishandled this situation, which is now affecting the operations of the national airline.”
Meanwhile, a “red-alert” was issued by police in the event that Grace attempted to cross the SA border after she allegedly assaulted a 20-year-old model in a Sandton Hotel on Sunday.
Air Zimbabwe is operated by Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore.
In 2011, an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200 was seized in London over a $1.2m debt. Later that year, a Boeing 737-500 was impounded by South African authorities after the airline failed to pay a $500 000 debt, the African Independent reported.
In April, all five Air Zimbabwe planes operating in South Africa were grounded when it was declared not airworthy.
In May, the airline was banned from flying to Europe over safety concerns.