Monday, October 5, 2009

Madombwe's Private Airline Plan Hits a Snag Shame Makoshori

Harare — Former Air Zimbabwe pilot Oscar Madombwe's dream to establish a private cargo airline has collapsed after the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) refused to grant his OpEd Air a flying certificate.The Financial Gazette can reveal that Madombwe whose OpEd Air could have been the country's first cargo airline to fly the local skies following the demise of Affreitair in the late 1990s is now taking his project to Mozambique.This was after CAAZ had rejected a jet OpEd had leased from a South African company on the basis that it was old and posed a threat to Zimbabwe's skies.The jet spent most of the first half of the year grounded at the Harare International Airport before being returned to South Africa after officials from CAAZ dug their heels in.CAAZ chief executive officer (CEO) David Chawota was not amused when this paper contacted his office for comment.He said: "Why has this become newsworthy when there are many other cases that we have dealt with and you have not questioned. If your car does not pass a VID (Vehicle Inspection Department) test, is it worth writing?"One of the country's respected airmen, Madombwe wrote his own piece of history in 2006 after he became the continent's only flying airline CEO, albeit in an acting capacity.Madombwe left the national airline in 2007 after current CEO Peter Chikumba was appointed substantive head.Several local and foreign investors have expressed interest to start private airlines or expand existing networks to Harare.In July, a team of local investors led by Lloyd Muchaka, a local businessman, announced plans to launch Fly Kumba -- a regional low cost airline that would kick-off on the Harare-Johannesburg and Bulawayo-Johannesburg routes.London listed Pan-African investment fund, LonZim, has also long expressed its desire to expand business for its airline, Fly 540 into Zimbabwe.Apart from the collapse of several local private airlines, the Zimbabwean market has lost Austria's Quantum Airlines, Germany's Lufthansa, Switzerland's Swissair, KLM of the Netherlands and many others after tourist traffic -- the driver of African aviation industries -- slowed down in from 2000.Thirteen airlines servicing Zimbabwe's airports and tourist attractions suffered a 56 percent decline in passenger loads in 2008 after the effects of the political standoff, the escalating global financial meltdown and election induced violence, which forced foreign travelers to reschedule or suspend planned trips into the country.Official statistics indicate that arrivals by air in 2008 declined to 429 307 from 981 689 in 2007.Air Zimbabwe controlled 38,5 percent of the local passenger market share, according to CAAZ statistics for 2008.

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