than 10 permits have failed to take to the skies due to capital constraints.
Others have accused the Government of “overprotecting” national carrier Air Zimbabwe on some of the lucrative routes. The local operators are particularly keen on the Harare-Johannesburg route that Air Zimbabwe is now servicing on a daily basis.
One of the companies that has been battling to get a slot on the Harare-Johannesburg route is Flywell Airline operating as Zimbabwe Airlink led by former Senator Forbes Magadu. He said that when they met all the requirements to ply the lucrative Harare-Johannesburg route, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development gave them the Harare-Beira and Maputo routes which he dismissed as unviable.
“We have two Embraer jets and capital to start business now and I have tried in vain to get approval on the routes. The ministry gave us Beira and Maputo which are not viable at all from Harare,” he said.
However, Acting Secretary for Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Mr Valentine Sinemani yesterday dismissed the accusations saying that local operators should be creative and innovative as the Harare-Johannesburg route was not the only lucrative route available.
He said the allocation of routes depended on the volume of passengers and since Air Zimbabwe was on a rebuilding exercise, it was not possible at this stage to open the Harare-Johannesburg route to competition.
“We are not shutting them out as there are many other routes they can operate on. They can go to Luanda, Lusaka, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and many other destinations on the continent.” Mr Sinemani defended the presence of South African Airways, Comair and SA Airlink on the Harare-Johannesburg route saying that this was protected by a bilateral agreement between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Mr Magadu whose company is in partnership with SA Airlink, feels that the ministry was working against the open skies policy as the law provides that no single airline should be protected in the era or economic liberalisation.
“I am asking the ministry to walk the talk according to the laws of the country and other covenants. As an indigenous operator and many others, we are being denied the opportunity to fly on some of the lucrative routes. It now seems that wherever Air Zimbabwe is flying, no one else should be going there and I do not think that is the way it should be,” said Mr Magadu.