AVIATION expert and former Zambia Airways employee Captain Charles Musenge says this is not the right time forZambia to set up an airline given the current situation in the sector.

But Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) chief executive officer Mateyo Kaluba has insisted that the national airline is expected to be launched between the second and third quarters of 2021.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s breakfast show, Tuesday, Musenge wondered what interest those who were on the national airline board were serving.

“I am not aware of who is on the board, or what their interests are, all I know for sure is that this is not the right time. This is a start-up company and most of the major airlines in the region and globally are shutting down and they are having to look for bail outs to survive. So just look at the environment right now, it’s not even maybe to do with the people, it’s not the right time. Next door we have Malawi and so far the numbers are not successful, you can cross check for yourselves if you want but it’s not a success story as far as I am concerned. You have to learn from the example right? And let me ask you, do you think that it is necessary to bring the Ethiopians to run this airline for us? We have necessary human capital in this country to sit down together, come up with a plan, come up with a model and start an airline that truly reflects the will, the vision and the capacity the Zambian people. If you look at the original carrier of Zambia Airways, we started with a small tiny aeroplane called a Dakota and we ended up with a DC10, and it was 100 percent owned by Zambians, how did we do it?” he asked.

He further advised that Zambia should look within because the country had all the technical expertise to run a national airline as what led to the failure of the first airline is government interference.

“We can set up a structure, truly Zambian management, with the technical skill in operational management, engineering etc, and then we can look at a model and come up with a plan and put the necessary structures, both operational and technical then we will make it work. Let’s look inward, let’s take all the technical expertise because one of the reasons was management but then also we must have a strong commitment and a will to achieve what we really want to achieve and we also must be realistic. The economic and the global environment is constantly changing, so you need to sit down, analyse the environment, look at your strengths and your weaknesses and come up with a plan that suits the structure,” said Musenge.

“Zambian airways was 100 percent owned by the Zambian government or shall I say the Zambian people. So there were a number of reasons that were advanced, one of them was that there was a lot of government interference and secondly also that there were issues of management. Government had a decision to make a choice of who they made the CEO and how the company was run.”

Meanwhile, Kaluba said the Zambia Airways board would announce the actual date of opening.

“We expect that the Zambia Airways board of directors will be meeting soon to make the decision on the date of launching the airline. I also want to indicate that the Minister of Communications and Transport did highlight a very important aspect of how we want Zambia Airways to run. We want Zambia Airways to run as an autonomous and independent airline and that is why neither the government nor IDC are the ones dictating when the airline should open. We have left this responsibility to the board of directors and management of Zambia Airways and when they have satisfied themselves that everything is in place to launch the airline, the board of Zambia Airways itself will announce the date. However in terms of timelines, they are confident that it should happen sometime between the second and third quarter of this year,” said Kaluba.

“Working with our partners Ethiopian airlines, we have done market assessment, we have done a comprehensive business case and we are confident that this is the appropriate time to launch Zambia airways. If you look at the airlines in the region that have struggled, it is pretty much the same problems that the old airline faced and to the extent that we are not repeating the mistakes of the past, we are confident that this airline will succeed. Its growth will be organic, it will not be driven by politics, it will not be driven by policy, its growth will be driven purely by business case and looking at Zambia’s strategic positioning, there is a lot to be confident about what Zambia airways will bring to this country and the region.”