Eswatini Govt applauds Zimbabwe over open skies policy  Minister Felix Mhona

 Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter 

The Government of Eswatini has applauded Zimbabwe’s open skies policy and the open-for-business mantra after its airline was recently allowed to operate in the country, following the swift release of a Foreign Operator Permit (FOP).

Zimbabwe’s Open Skies Policy, which enhances the country’s attractiveness to potential investment and tourism continue to gain momentum and yesterday, the Royal Eswatini National Airways Corporation (RENAC), running Eswatini Air began its maiden flight into the country.

Government’s adoption of the open skies policy and improved business environment anchored on Zimbabwe’s Open for Business mantra has seen confidence to invest in the country growing.

The airline joins a growing list of airlines establishing routes between Harare and various destinations.

Now over 18 airlines are now flying into the country.Last month, Eswatini Air and Zambia Airways applied for and obtained foreign operator permits from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.

The permits allow the airlines to offer passenger and cargo services at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare.

Eswatini Air started flying into the country using two ERJ145s aircraft that link Manzini in Eswatini with Johannesburg in South Africa and Harare will start with flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Eswatini government officials were welcomed yesterday at the RGMIA by Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona, among other senior officials.

Addressing during the event, Eswatini Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe said their Government expresses gratitude to the Government of Zimbabwe for the designation of Eswatini Air to operate the Harare/Eswatini.

“We also thank the Zimbabwe Civil Authority for the swift release of the FOP to Eswatini Air to enable operations to resume, hence our first flight today (yesterday).

It is our sincere belief that the airline will prosper and fulfil the purpose of its establishment, being the transportation of passengers and goods between our two countries.

“Aviation is a catalyst for economic development. It is our belief that the airline will open areas of collaboration between our countries.

Today marks the beginning of our operation into Zimbabwe and such is a major milestone that calls for celebration.

The Kingdom of Eswatini is a member of SADC and of the African Union, and fully subscribes to the “Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), and we are excited that our sister country Zimbabwe also does, in fact, allow me to use this opportunity to congratulate Zimbabwe for the leading role and for being a pioneer in going beyond the frameworks of SAATM,” he said.

Minister Ndwandwe said with the launch of their national airline, they will position it well to optimise the opportunities presented by the Government of Zimbabwe in liberalizing the country’s open skies.

“Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is just the first re-entry point of our airline into Zimbabwe. We are already at an advanced stage in our evaluation processes for a second entry point into Zimbabwe by Eswatini Air. We stand by the ideals of our frontrunners on the political landscape of Africa, for not only having an Africa that is united politically but one which removes barriers to the free movement of our people and their goods.

“We may not have the power to change the distances, but with the introduction of a direct non-stop service between the Kingdom of Eswatini and Harare, we have reduced the travel time to just over one hour, compared to previously available travel options of over 8 hours or longer.

Aviation and in particular air transport services between our countries will greatly stimulate trade, be it for, Freight, Business people travelling, tourism, and for visiting friends and relatives,” he said.He said the covid-19 pandemic taught them that they should embrace each other as fellow Africans and reduce reliance on non-African trading partners.

In response, Minister Mhona said this new development was a testament to the growing economic ties between Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Eswatini.

“I am quite confident that this new air service will facilitate increased trade, investment and tourism between our two countries.

The Government of Zimbabwe applauds the significant strides that RENAC is making in providing reliable air transport services to the people of Eswatini and the wider Southern African region.

I understand RENAC’s scheduled services were established to fill the gap left by Swaziland Airlink to provide a reliable air transport service to the people of Eswatini but not only did they fill in the gap, but they are also now connecting the Kingdom of Eswatini to the region.

“As the Minister responsible for Transport and Infrastructural Development I am particularly pleased to see the upward trajectory that the aviation sector in our region has been taking since the relaxation of the COVID restrictions which had severely crippled the aviation industry.

The launch of this new service will provide greater connectivity and convenience for our people, and I am confident that it will be well received by both business and leisure travellers,” he said. He said they have been playing their part well by intensifying their infrastructural and route development efforts to build a resilient, sustainable and inclusive air transport sector.

“This has been made possible under the new dispensation led by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde, Dr. E.D. Mnangagwa, which seeks to position Zimbabwe as an Upper Middle-Income Economy by the year 2030. Air transport plays a critical role in enabling this endeavour as it opens and connects markets while facilitating trade and enabling industries to link into global supply chains.

I would like to use this opportunity to reaffirm my excitement by congratulating the Royal Eswatini National Airways Corporation on this milestone achievement. I also want to assure you of our full support as you continue to expand your air services into Zimbabwe. Evidence of the Government’s commitment to supporting the air transport industry is abundant,” Minister Mhona said.

He said they have been implementing the Yamoussoukro declaration concerning the liberalisation of access to air transport markets in Africa, which dovetails with President Mnangagwa’s mantra, “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

“It is further testimony of the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) obligations to which our country Zimbabwe is a party. Our Ministry will continue to support the aviation industry as it is an essential service component which drives economic, social and cultural development through the promotion and facilitation of trade and tourism.

Aviation contributes to the national GDP and the creation of employment, thereby contributing immensely to the attainment of the objectives of the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025).

“Air transport, leveraged by robust airport infrastructures as we thrive at our airports, is pivotal to the economic growth of our country. This R. G. Mugabe International Airport is being expanded and rehabilitated, and the extensions are set to be complete by June this year which is two months from now,” Minister Mhona said.

He applauded the Airports Company of Zimbabwe (Private) Limited, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Climate and Hospitality Industry and the private sector for recognizing, appreciating and partnering with the aviation industry in destination marketing and route development initiatives.

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