Zambia Airways retraces Harare route Transport and infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Mike Madiro (centre) leads in making a toast with the Zambian delegation during the launch of Zambia Airways inaugural flight to Harare at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday. — Picture Innocent Makawa.

Freeman Razemba

Senior Reporter

Zambia Airways yesterday returned to Zimbabwe for the first time in 27 years as Government’s commitment to implementing the open skies policy continues to bear fruit as more airlines have started flying into the country in the past six months.

Yesterday’s development followed closely on the return of Eswatini Air on Monday.

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.

The daily flights of Zambia Airways are expected to promote tourism, business and enhance travel between the two neighbouring countries.

The flights started yesterday, using a 77-seater Dash 8 Q400 aircraft flying between Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka and Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

A delegation from the Zambia Ministry of Transport and Logistics, Zambia Airways and Zambia Tourist Board yesterday arrived in Zimbabwe aboard the aircraft and met their Zimbabwean counterparts at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

Addressing the ceremony Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Mike Madiro congratulated the Zambia Airways board and management for their remarkable leadership which has enabled them to explore the air space between Lusaka and Harare.

“We are grateful to the Zambia Airways, the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, the aeronautical authority of Zimbabwe and the whole aviation industry in Zimbabwe for this smart collaboration which has made this occasion a success.

“We have no doubt that visitors who will traverse the air space between Lusaka and Harare will savour the splendid sights of the sunny, tranquil, refreshing terrain punctuated by grasslands and anthills of the savannah and of course the magnificent Zambezi escarpment.

“As you may fully be aware, cooperation between our two great countries is not new. Zimbabwe and Zambia cooperate on various platforms. I am aware that as recent as 2018, Zimbabwe and Zambia converged in Lusaka at the occasion of the 17th Joint Permanent Cooperation Commission to strengthen the well-established solidarity that already exists.

We have moved together on a number of projects such as our shared water course, which gave birth to the biggest inland dam by volume in the world, Lake Kariba and the Victoria Falls Bridge, which straddles the Zambezi River and from which tourists partake of some of the mesmerising and dazzling sights of the Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders).

“Indeed the mighty Victoria Falls is an undisputed natural wonder and umbilical cord to our two sister countries whose bridge flourishes under the auspices of the Emerged Railways Properties, a joint company owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia,” he said.

He said to attain the desired middle-income status and fully modernise their countries, it was imperative that they develop reliable, adequate and appropriate aviation links.

Under the new dispensation of President Mnangagwa, which seeks to grow Zimbabwe to be an upper middle-income economy by 2030, air transport played a critical role as it opened and connected markets, facilitated trade and enabled industries to link into global supply chains.

“It is our hope therefore that, as this connectivity will be facilitating tourism, cultural and business exchanges, economic opportunities and people-to-people relations will improve,” Deputy Minister Madiro said.

He said the flight yesterday had coincided with the rehabilitation and upgrade of the RGM International Airport, to accommodate long and wide aircraft.

He said they were also working on continuous upgradation of equipment to enhance passenger facilitation, modern check-in counters, baggage handling access control and installation of modern navigation equipment.

Air transport, leveraged by robust airport infrastructure, was pivotal to the economic growth of Zimbabwe through tourism, trade and regional integration. It improved the movement of people and goods in a more cost-effective way,” he said.

Deputy Minister Madiro said the introduction of new airlines in the market was in line with the policy of ending overregulation the air transport sector, which is a key enabler to economic development.

“We believe that increased connectivity between Zimbabwe and Zambia is mutually-beneficial. As a testament to our commitment to the open skies policy, the Government of Zimbabwe has been granting fifth freedom air traffic rights.

“I am excited and confident to say that we are evidently walking the talk, and implementing the Yamoussoukro declaration concerning the liberalisation of access to air transport markets in Africa, which is in line with His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Cde Dr. E.D Mnangagwa’s mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’.

“It is further testimony of the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market obligations to which Zimbabwe is party,” he said.

Airports Company of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Tawanda Gusha said this was a positive development as all work towards developing the aviation sector in the region.

“What it is doing is that it is giving travellers a wider choice of travel between the two cities of Harare and Lusaka. We have been working together with the Zambia Airports Corporation Private Limited to ensure that we promote the region as a destination and not as individual countries and that collaboration is what is bringing in these flights that we share between ourselves as Zimbabwe and Zambia,” he said.

The acting permanent secretary for Transport and logistics in Zambia, Mr Stephen Mbewe, applauded the Government for granting them permission to fly into the country.

“Thank you very much for letting us come to Zimbabwe. Zambia and Zimbabwe are twins. Remember we have a joint company called Zimbabwe and Zambia (ZIZA) owned by our parent ministries,” he said.

Zambia Airways had not been flying into Zimbabwe for decades and now they were going to do daily flights.

Mr Mbewe also pleaded with the Government to let them also fly the Lusaka-Harare-Johannesburg route.

Chief executive Zambia Tourist Board Mr Matongo Matamwandi also said Zambia said to ensure that they boost the tourism sector between the two countries, they wanted to ensure that there is connectivity between the two countries. He said the tourism sector was also going to create more jobs between the two countries.

He said the tourism sector was the fastest growing industry which in future will take over mining and other sectors in contributing to the GDP.

Meanwhile, Eswatini Air, started flying into the country on Monday 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.

“Our schedule is designed to offer connections via our hub, King Mswati III International Airport, for travellers between Durban and Harare as well as between Johannesburg and Harare,” the airline recently said in a statement.

Since the coming of the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa in 2017, more airlines, some of which had abandoned Harare, have been coming back. This has, in turn, considerably boosted tourist arrivals since the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Zimbabwe is presently developing airports infrastructure as it angles Harare into a regional hub.

The US$153 million rehabilitation and modernisation of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is now 85 percent complete. Victoria Falls International Airport has already been upgraded and it dwarfs airports in neighbouring countries.

Wide-bodied aircraft can land at Victoria Falls following the upgrade.

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