The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is this year embarking on a number of projects such as the development and expansion of the Robert Mugabe International Airport and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, among others, in anticipation of growth in the aviation sector following the ushering in of the new dispensation.
NewsDay (ND) business reporter, Mthandazo Nyoni caught up with CAAZ general manager, David Chawota (DC) on the state of Zimbabwe’s civil aviation industry among other issues. Below are the excerpts of the interview:
ND: What is the current state of civil aviation industry in Zimbabwe?
DC: The state of the civil aviation industry today is such that we are on a growth path. This comes on the back of the new dispensation, where we are having more visitors and we are also creating the necessary facilities for the purposes of handling the new developments, that’s in so far as the market is concerned.
ND: What is your area of focus this year?
DC: The authority is embarking on the development and expansion of the Robert Mugabe International Airport and it is also going to embark on the rehabilitation and development of its airspace management systems, so that, you see, this is concurrently with the hub status that we are envisaging to establish at the end of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport which will be in the next, at most four years. It should totally be completed.
This does not preclude all other developments that are taking place. Already there is evidence that you see growth in so far as traffic from passenger point of view and also aircraft movement point of view, has been the increasing.
Since the commissioning of the Victoria Falls International Airport, that airport has experienced a 28% growth in so far as passenger movement is concerned, which is a plus. It had not stopped growing.
That is the thrust we are pursuing that we are facilitating tourism, we are facilitating commerce, we are facilitating trade and general movement of people amongst ourselves.
And also with this new dispensation we can see that there is activity in the sector.
We heard the permanent secretary (George Mlilo) talking about opening up the Harare-Bulawayo route for other players to take. That is recognition of that growth, which our current airline is no longer able to handle on its own. So we are all working as key stakeholders together, ourselves, the airlines and all those who are facilitating tourism, including the tourism industry itself to ensure that our visitors are well-catered for.
So in as far as this year is concerned, you should check our space, you find development taking place. We are probably not going to be celebrating groundbreaking and things, but you will definitely see things happening.
ND: Anything for the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, because I understand there are some outstanding works that need to be completed?
DC: At Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport you heard the secretary talking about the air traffic control tower. Yes, it’s a project that is in our cards this year.
We have got an allocation from the fiscus to kick start the project. It’s not sufficient to finish the project, but we shall find strategies to ensure that programme is commenced and completed.
ND: How much are you looking for?
DC: For the programme at JM Nkomo the initial one, which is the first of the development programme, we are looking at $15 million.
ND: Do you have timelines to say the project would kickstart in such and such a time?
DC: We will give timelines the moment we say we now have the funding to kickstart the project and we are not just going to have funds to kickstart the project which will stop. We are going to establish a funding model that will see the programmes to their completion. There may be phased or rather, but the issue is whatever phase we embark, if we say we are going to embark on air traffic control tower we shall start it and finish it.
We don’t want again to start such a project and then we have this thing going on for years. No, that’s not the model we are pursuing.
ND: Government is in the process of unbundling CAAZ into two entities. One entity will be responsible for regulatory issues while the other will be in charge of commercial operations. How are these entities going to operate?
DC: Yes, CAAZ is going to be unbundled into two entities, one entity will be responsible for regulatory issues while the other will be responsible for commercial operations.