Tanzania ministerial remarks on aviation


(eTN) – Information was received about perplexing comments made by the recently appointed Tanzanian minister for transport when formally closing Civil Aviation Week. His call for measures in the aviation sector to have a national airline which could be efficient, reliable, less bureaucratic, and low cost, raised the proverbial hairs in the aviation industry and were by sections of airline analysts seen as a renewed call to revive the moribund Air Tanzania, while at the same time private airlines have efficiently stepped into the gap left by ATCL and provided more reliable and wider services than previously known to air travelers in Tanzania.

Precision Air, Fly 540, Tanzania, and other airlines have invested heavily in recent years to introduce state-of-the-art aircraft, have expanded their routes across the country and into neighboring countries, and generally left the public better off than ATCL ever managed to do. Precision Air, in fact, is in February and March 2011 to float about 30 percent of their shares in order to make ownership possible for Tanzanian private and corporate investors, an effort which the minister did apparently not find worthy to highlight and comment on, perpetuating suspicions that the Tanzanian government continues to have issues with Precision Air, which by sections in politics and business remains portrayed as foreign – in clear language as Kenyan – because of their affiliation with Kenya Airways and arguably because of their success where ATCL let the nation down and failed.

The minister further caused eyebrows to rise when claiming that in 25 years from now Tanzanian aviation would be the envy of the world. Said one attendee to this correspondent: “This is rich coming from our government, which has shown no real understanding of the complex issues surrounding aviation. Rehabilitation of aerodromes for instance, construction of new airfields, and ATC infrastructure are too slow in coming and deliberate training of Tanzanians in the sector is almost absent. The minister talks about an aviation masterplan and a full liberalization, let them start now just to reciprocate to our neighbors what those are already granting us if they want anyone to believe their speeches. But when I read your contributions about the complaints of our neighbors about access to our skies it tells me that Tanzania is not ready to even implement East African aviation resolutions and for sure not remove the barriers they have placed in the way of for instance your airlines trying to fly into our parks, yet we can fly into any park in Uganda and get flight clearances the same day we apply. Our minister, our government needs to wake up to reality and dialogue with us aviators, not stand up there and lecture us with meaningless speeches which only waste our time.”

While evading questions to the fate of ATCL, the minister nevertheless was vague enough in his replies to journalists present to leave the door open for future financial support – while meanwhile debts incurred by ATCL over in particular the closure of the route to Johannesburg left travel agents South Africa waiting for their refunds for several years now – by some of them seen as a national disgrace for Tanzania.