Thursday, April 22, 2010

UDF tears apart Finance Minister on Air Malawi crisis

By Nyasa Times Published: April 21, 2010

The United Democratic Front (UDF) has denied claims by Finance Minister Ken Kandodo that it was responsible for the current financial and operational crisis the country’s sole airline, Air Malawi, is going through.

Finance Minister blamed the then UDF government for buying the Sapitwa aircraft, which is currently grounded in South Africa, after being in operation for relatively short time soon after the purchase.

"The fact of the matter is that this plane was not such a good deal. Spent too much on it and since we bought, we really haven't made any money out of it at all," Kandodo told Capital Radio.

But UDF Director of Research Humphrey Mvula trashed the claims saying the party could not have bought the plane.

"It was bought in 2005 basically, the UDF government did not buy that plane, it was bought during this government," Mvula said.

"A UDF government did not buy a plane; there was a board. That board could have taken a decision. I remember the Chief Executive of the board at that time was Mrs [Esther] Chioko and I think the board chairman either was Mr Thom Kanyuka or somebody else and I think Hon [Francis] Mphepo was also part of the board. If the board will tell you the involvement of government then that same board will tell you who in government was involved in the purchase of the plane," he explained.

Mvula added: "The [government] may have provided some form of facilitation by way of guarantees saying that if you want to buy a plane and if possible there financial requirements government may come to support of airline."

On the financial woes of Air Malawi, Mvula said: "The airline has been undercapitalised at all other times whether during the UDF time or now.

"The airline has been undercapitalised. Shortage of resources at every corner has haunted the operations of the airline," he said.

Mvula said as long as institutions like the national airline remain undercapitalised, it will be difficult to criticise them.

"As Malawians, as our President is promoting 'Buy Malawian', I think as a party we agree with him, we should also patronise our airline. And I think a deliberate instruction must be issued to government and all other institutions and Malawians in general to patronise Air Malawi so that it should be a plane of first choice and we should go to other plans possibly the plane is full," Mvula said.

Meanwhile, the proposed deal to sell Air Malawi to South Africa-based Comair has hit a snag as finance minister said the deal was not good.

Government recently offered Comair 49 per cent stake in Air Malawi after it snubbed the South African operator's bid to take over the airliner in January 2008.

Kandodo said Comair, among other things, wanted to suspend all domestic flights and other regional flights to concentrate on the Malawi-South Africa route.

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Source: Malawi news | NyasaTimes breaking online news source from Malaw


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