Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba says he has made it a habit to use public transport from Lusaka’s Chilanga area to town every weekend in order to observe how the sector operates.
Speaking when he featured on 5FM’s The Burning Issue programme today, Mushimba also said there was a lot that needed to be done in order to sanitize the transport sector.
“I actually make it a point on weekends to use public transportation. I live in Chilanga at the moment and I jump on a public mini bus, the Hiace buses from Sandy’s Creation there to come into town. I usually have a hair cut believe it or not, I have some hair cut, I usually cut it on weekends, and then I go back home. So I experience public transportation almost on a weekly basis. It (public transport sector) needs a lot of work and that is squarely in my domain and I have been thinking through how we can sanitize public transportation a bit, the behavior of some of our drivers and the conductors, the equipment that is being used, its just abusive to the public,” Mushimba said.
Mushimba highlighted some of the progress made in the aviation sector.
“You will see that maybe in the previous governments, there was a lot of investment in the road sector and not as much in the other sectors. You will also going to notice that in the PF government, there has been the spreading of resources into each one of the four modes of transportation in the country roads, railway, water transportation where we have water bodies, and aviation. You have seen equal investments in all these because we want to make sure that as a country, at a certain time, all modes of transport are available to the people. And when all modes of transport are available to the people, the appropriateness of travel, then can be a conversation in the country. Those things that need to move by railway will move by rail because it will be available and it will be efficient enough. Those things that need to move by air can move by air,” Mushimba said.
He said government has the vision to make Zambia the hub of transport and communication in the SADC region.
“The investment, coming to your question that has been done in the aviation sector, the new airport terminals, the new raider system that is now automatically navigating planes in our air space, the provincial airports that are being worked on, Kasama, Mbala, the Ndola international airport, the new terminal Harry Mwaanga Nkhumbuka international airport which I had a privilege of commissioning last year, Nfuwe airport we are just finishing discussions to upgrade that as well. There are discussions on Kasaba Bay airport. There is a lot of investment, a billion dollar plan that has been put in the aviation sector,” Mushimba added.
“And as government, the vision is to make Zambia the hub of transport and communication in the SADC region. We feel we can be that central country that everything can come through and filter to the rest of the countries through here and we want by 2030 to be that. And these investments we are putting in all these sectors are speaking to that vision.”
Mushimba said Cabinet would soon deliberate the modalities for the reintroduction of the national airline.
“We also as government have plans to reintroduce the national airline. What we have done as government through is not to rush this conversation. We have been very methodical, very analytical and exhaustive in our scenario analysis to make sure that the best and the most sustainable way of re-establishing the national airline is the one that is picked. My ministry has finished these scenario analysis, financial modeling and sent a memo to Cabinet to make a decision on which path among the several scenarios presented each with its advantages and its its disadvantages,” he said.
“Once Cabinet applies its mind and makes a decision, that decision will be announced to the people in terms of how we will establish a national airline or if we establish a national airline. But we have made a very good case that we need a national airline because we have done the work. We want to make sure that if we build a nice house with a nice garage, we also have a car to park in the garage, not a neighbor’s car to park in our garage.”
Mushimba said government was working hard to diversify the economy.
“There are several scenarios that have been put on the table but obviously the arching objective is for Zambia to be in the skies because we are diversifying the economy and we are not just giving lips service to this word ‘we are diversifying the economy’ under His Excellency the President, we want open tourism corridors, we want to do farming blocks in the agricultural value chain and products, and to do these things we certainly need a national airline. And this national airline will be for the people of Zambia on behalf of the people of Zambia,” Mushimba said.
And Mushimba disclosed that close to 45 per cent works on the upgrading of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport had been done.
“Kenneth Kaunda international airport is far much more advanced than the Copperbelt and for obvious reasons that we started earlier on KKIA. The last I checked , we were close to 45 per cent completion and slightly ahead of schedule to the completion date of 2019 for that terminal. For the Copperbelt international airport, His Excellency just commissioned the project and activities have continued,” said Mushimba.