Lovemore Lubinda

The second reading of the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill (H.B. 4, 2017) that was gazetted on 15 November 2016, and referred to the Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development compelling the Committee to exercise its function of scrutinizing bills in order to make the necessary recommendations, stirred a heated debate in parliament recently.

The Bill seeks to unbundle the role of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) into two entities, namely the Airports Company of Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.

The presented report was a product of an analysis of the Bill by the Committee informed by submissions from the public hearings held with members of the public and stakeholders in Bulawayo and Harare.

Be that as it may, stakeholders suggested that the CAAZ Board should be appointed in accordance with Section 10(2) of the Civil Aviation Act which stipulates that Board members should be appointed for their knowledge, ability and experience in aviation or finance, unlike the current Board and all others before it has almost no members with knowledge and experience of aviation.

Parliament heard that some participants were of the opinion that there should not be a split of CAAZ at all because it is not clear in the Bill what functions would remain with CAAZ.  Some argued that air traffic control and air navigation services should not be under regulatory authority or the Airports Company but should be a separate entity.

It was noted that since the Bill seeks to correct the current status that CAAZ is performing, like the dual role of regulator and operator resulting in the Authority being conflicted in the discharge of its duties, all operational divisions should be removed from CAAZ.

However, the House heard that some stakeholders were against the proposal to split CAAZ saying the concentration by the Ministry on administrative issues at the expense of operational needs was unnecessary at the moment.

However, the Committee recommended that the unbundling of CAAZ into two entities should go ahead in order to comply with international, standards.

Contributing to the debate, Honourable Webster Maondera said while he applauds the unbundling of the Civil Aviation, he was worried as it looked like the Government has neglected the infrastructure at the airports.

“The problem is that of visitors coming from other countries for the first time. When they get to Robert Mugabe International Airport they will see water flowing all over in the toilets, the place is not presentable,” he said.

Amid Inaudible interjections; he noted that the other problem was that the Civil Aviation through the Ministry has been tending a black eye by not having a data base for all qualified people so that in the event that they want to recruit, they will recruit they would do so from that pool.

To the contrary, Hon Prince Sibanda said he was vehemently opposed to the passing of this Bill saying it was not time for the country to unbundle CAAZ without technical reports to indicate that the move would indeed add value.

He said in passing the Bill, without technical information which shows that indeed a study was conducted to reveal that there is a possibility for this company to make a profit when it is unbundled, Parliament would have acted speculatively.

He added that by looking at who would be superintending the unbundling of this company, he doesn’t have confidence.

“The unbundling of it is being pushed by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development. This is a Ministry which in the very short recent history is littered with abuse and mismanagement of resources.

“The same Ministry under the same Minister which only a few months ago let go scot-free senior managers at ZINARA who had been implicated in corruption,” he said.

Hon. Sibanda added that fears are that, this exercise of unbundling State enterprises is meant to benefit certain individuals.  

“It is my honesty and sincere view that if we want to preserve State assets from predatory kind of conduct and tendencies that we are seeing in Ministries, I think we need to stop this, until we put in place measures that give citizens assurance that, their asset is going to be added value by the action that is being done.  

“We are being used as a House to make laws that are going to benefit certain individuals and not the nation of Zimbabwe and I will not be part of that.  I will not join you Hon. Speaker in passing such a law. Hon. Speaker,” he vowed.

However, Hon John Holder disagreed saying it was retrogressive to reject the Bill simply because of the issues that transpired in the past.  “I am saying this because; we had a Head of State, Mr. R. G. Mugabe and this is now a new dispensation and we have Hon. E. D. Mnangagwa as His Excellency the President.  So, things are beginning to change and we need to support this Bill in order for this infrastructure to be upgraded.

“We are left behind.  I say so because, technology has overtaken our laws and by the time we start changing our laws and trying to pass these Bills, we have people with negative attitudes towards this,” he said.

He added that if the country manages to pass the Bill, and upgrade all the aerodromes throughout the country, business will boom.

“The President is out there telling people that we are open for business.  People want to fly in. They need to get to the place to assess, evaluate, they do due diligence and then go back, prepare the money and bring it into this country and this Bill is one of the key players to this development.

“The reason why we need that Bill to pass is simply because we want to make sure that our infrastructure has international standards.  In every way, irrespective of looking at personalities to say so and so was involved in this and so and so was involved in that corruption and that corruption,” he added. zwnews