Harrington disagrees with possibility of national airline

Former Transport Minister William Harrington says it will be impossible for the country to run a national airline based on past experiences of the liquidated Zambian Airways.

Reacting to President Michael Sata’s sentiments on the country not having a national airline despite being rich in natural resources, Mr. Harrington stated that Zambia does not have the resources to operate a national airline adding that the only way a national airline would work is through partnership with the private sector.

Mr. Harrington further challenged government to do its research well on the issue of opening a national airline and hoped the proposal to open an airline was not just to fulfil its campaign promises of creating employment.

“Yes we need employment but I do not think it should come by creating parastatals that are loss making by nature, because I foresee a situation where we will have a lot of political appointees,” he said.

He explained that at the time of the liquidation of Zambia Airways when he was serving as Minister of Transport the liquidation of Zambia Airways was not well received but the decision to liquidate the airline was based on research.

“Zambia Airways was a loss making parastatal like most parastatals at the time. It had about 1, 700 employees for four aircrafts and some of the routes were not economically viable. It was perceived to be heavily indebted; its debts exceeded its liquidity situation,” he explained.

Mr. Harrington bluntly stated that he was not comfortable with the idea of government establishing a national airline looking at the operations of the country’s previous national airline.

“We need the PF government to explain to the nation what their policy is, what their economic policies are. Are we going back to the era of parastatals again which was a serious drain on our national resources? The nation needs to be told what the economic policy is,”

He further questioned if the country was slowly moving back to the UNIP era of mismanaged parastatals.

“Although it is well to have a national airline the problem is mismanagement. The establishment of a national airline is just a way of trying to create employment like it was in the UNIP era when you knew a Minister of Transport it was easy to get a job that is why Zambia Airways was over employed. Most of those 1,700 employees were doing local routes,” he said.

Mr. Harrington further retaliated that during Kenneth Kaunda’s rule most of the managers managing parastatals such as UBZ and Zambia Railways did not have the business acumen.

“Most of those appointments under UNIP were political appointees appointed by state house. In his time KK used the one party system of government to appoint and most of those did not have the business acumen. Most of those parastatals were heavily subsidized by the government and a lot of money was pumped into those parastatals to keep people in employment is this what we want to see,” he questioned.

He further questioned how President Sata would suggest the establishment of a national airline having been in government at the time of Zambia Airway’s liquidation and was privy to information.

“I am deeply concerned and worried it will just be a big drain on our national resources. Having been in government the president is fully aware why Zambia Airways was liquated. What has changed now. South African Airways is facing serious liquidity and capitalization problems with our fragile economy how will we sustain the airline,” he said.

He further added that South Africa being one of Africa’s growing economies was facing problems running its airline and wondered how Zambia as a country with a poor economic growth could manage especially with its high fuel costs.

“We have seen South African Airways going under yet South Africa is a very powerful economy which has gold yet they are facing very serious problems. The question is our economy with so many pressing demands like health and education and our jet fuel being very expensive how will we manage it?” he questioned.

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9 Responses to “Harrington disagrees with possibility of national airline”

  1. Harrison Musonda says:

    Dear Minister Harrington,

    I read your statement with great interest yet with much disappointment that such a negative statement comes from a person whose understanding of the operation of the aviation sector is very minimal. With due respect to you having served as Minister of Transport, I find you to be disingenous in the way you ause the government of Appointing Parastatal Chief as being the cause of mismanagment of Zambia Airways. Mr Harrington should admit that the MMD governmnent also had to appointed MDs of whom one was his fellow coloured in the name of George Lewis (MHSRIP).

    It is also sad to note th Mr. Harrington wants to pretend to be a blind man by not admitting that European carriers are making huge profits on Arican routes, Zambia included.

    In his address to the Association of African Airlines, the Association Secretary General Dr. Chingoshi pointed out that “the playing field of open skies is not level” as many African airlines have been black listed as coming from countries whose airspaces are not safe yet these same European Union Carriers keep on getting more slots to fly into Africa.( “http://www.afraa.org/index.php/our-work/agas/44th-aga-2012/presentations” under “Opening Remarks by AFRAA Secretary General”.)

    Yes, I strongly support the President, Zambia needs a National Airline. All what government should emphasize on is the “Change in Our WOrk Culture” if we have to meet the demands of the 21st.Century travelling public. I understand and know the SAA has had challenges which were created by wrong appointments and selfishness of certain individuals. I believe that there are lots of qualified Zambians today that have worked for International Organizations who are willing to come back home and be part of such a venture. Until the likes of Minister Harrington start appreciating that Zambia is ripe for a national airline, Zambians will never see the Eagle Fly with pride again.

    Minister Harrington talks of Zambia Airways Debt, why doesn’t he address how Ndeke House, Aircrew Residence (Charisma Hotel), Ndeke Motel, The Guest House in Ndola, the paid for aircraft and other assets were disposed off yet the liquidators have failed to give a full report on the Liquidation of Zambia Airways.

    It is a shame to hear from a man that could have served Zambia Airways from liquidation come out and try to discourage the government of the day to meet its national obligations. Come on Mr. Harrington, it is time we should be championing the cause of development than sit back and watch others eat the fruits of our hard earned independence. Rwanda never had an airline yet Zambians are flying their planes today, so goes for countries like Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Botswana and many more. Can you imagine a Zambia pilot being the Presidential Pilot of another country when our own president flies economy class?

    Whatever the case may be Zambians are ready to get the Eagle fly as long as the government gives them support. Private investors have failed us and examples are there to prove this.

    Private investment in the airline industry is not cheap. For the sake of the general public to know, most airlines on the continent of Africa are government sponsored except a few in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya. It would interesting to also know that most of these private run airlines would rather in cargo than passengers. Records are there to prove that most private run airlines have bad service record and their technical obligations to the travelling public are way below par, hence the analogy of flying coffins of Africa.

    In summation, it is not fair for Minister Harrington to be an advocate of doom when he should be a champion of success.

    All these are my personal opinion and I can be reached at muyeba@yahoo.com

    • Paul says:

      Excellent explanation.Am proud you think like me.

      • james says:

        Excellent. Harrington is always negative. He’s been proven to be negative on so many occassions including being negative about kalusha bwalya’s led FAZ executive that eventualy brought us pride by winning the AFCON cup . . . and many instances were he’s vomitted his negative tirade and has been proven otherwise.

  2. Am very disappointed with our former minister of transport Mr William Harrington’s comments on Zambia having a national airline. we have smaller economies in Africa with airlines. Please former minister do you mean that airline business is practically impossible to run? Time is dynamic, if unip failed to run the airline that time does not mean the current government can fail to run it. There are many ways of running the airline at one time Kenya airways partnered with KLM. So according to you Zambia should never have a national airline. You are the kind of people who frustrate government programs shame on you.

  3. Paul says:

    Good oberservation and comment.

  4. vicky says:

    Was it necessary for you to say coloured instead of just saying the Late George Lewis? Why label someone by his or her race. It is a racist remark. You could easily get your point across without out refering the race of the person.

  5. Let's end mediocrity says:

    @ Harrison Musonda – I believe you are missing a very important point which is ‘is having a national airline a priority or we just want one for the sake of prestige? Mr. Harrington may have not be as elaborate in his stance but he does have some valid points which you need to consider. 1. The aviation industry is a highly specialized sector which needs people with experience and the business acumen to run successful airlines. Factors like fuel, routes, pricing, leasing agreements, maintenance, staff costs, etc are all critical success factors and yet you brush them off as being insignificant. 2. You give examples of African countries who have their own national carriers but fail to substantiate the performance of those airlines in terms of profitability and government subsidies. You further go on to place the poor performance of SAA on poor management and political appointments. Do not underestimate just how competitive the aviation industry is, I urge you to study the failures of Zambia airways, Zambezi airlines, nationwide, etc. 3. What are the benefits of having a national airline? Do those benefits outweigh the benefits from investments in health, agriculture, education? If your answer is yes, then by all means go ahead and have your own national carrier. As a side note, how many people in Zambia can afford to fly? You cannot have an airline just to serve tourists? What type of carrier is it going to be? Low cost? Is it going to be more affordable than the current operators servicing the Zambian market?

  6. Gromyko says:

    National Airline at the moment is not our priority, lets get our , FOOD ,hospitals,schools roads ZESCO and railways organised before we go in these luxaries.If we can achieve this, than we will be able to run an airline.

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