TRANSPORT and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya says the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the delay in re-launching Zambia Airways.

Speaking when he appeared on a Diamond TV programme dubbed “COSTA”, Sunday, Kafwaya insisted that Zambia had the technical and financial capacity to run the flag carrier, but observed that the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the airline’s re-launch.

“I think that Zambia does have the capacity to be able to fly again with Zambia Airways. This is why the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), working together with Ethiopian Airlines, have been able to sign a Shareholders’ Agreement, they have put the operating procedure together [and] they have put trained people, that demonstrates capacity. But what does the COVID-19 mean? I think it adds to the undertakings of the uncertainty because if there is no passenger, why fly? This is a business with shareholders who have looked at the business proposition and are happy that this can be done,” Kafwaya said.

“When these things began a few years back, was COVID there? During the time when we were hit by climate change, were people travelling? People were travelling in spite of the climate change and the airline is there to move people from point A to point B so climate change cannot be brought into the discussions of Zambia Airways, but COVID is [serious]. However, the big thing that delayed Zambia Airways is certification. There were issues to do with the release of the Air Lease Corporation (ALC), they were delayed as far as I am concerned. While I cannot say when given the prevailing circumstances, we have made progress. We are just about to finalize the certificate and the next step is to assess the market environment. If Zambia Airways can be able fly with the prevailing circumstances, they should be able to do so.”

Asked when the situation would normalize for people to start flying again, Kafwaya said his Ministry only facilitated travels.

“We facilitate travel, we don’t cause travel. So, somebody must be able to travel for the aviation to facilitate the travel. It is not up to Mahogany (Airline), for example, it is the business environment, it is the relaxation of the measures. The President has been clear on the new normal so let us get back into working considering all these measures,” he replied.

And when asked why Zamtel was not competing favourably on the market compared to other network providers, Kafwaya said all the three network providers had poor quality of services.

“The issue of government interference in Zamtel is a perception. Zamtel has a chief executive officer, and under him there is a manager and above him, there is a board, I am a board chairman. The business side of Zamtel is even under Ministry of Finance because it is under IDC, but the actual telecommunication is under the Ministry of Communications and Transport. So, who exerts the influence there? This is why government has helped Zamtel with infrastructure across the country, this in incapacitation that we are talking about. I am worried about the quality of service, not only in Zamtel, but also in MTN and Airtel because it’s important that when we open up the environment, the environment should be able to provide quality services,” said Kafwaya.