Unmonitored airstrips will be closed, while a new radar control system to monitor aircraft flying in the country’s airspace will soon be installed amid concerns some aeroplanes have become conduits to smuggle minerals.

Government is working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) to overhaul the radar system and bring it up to date with international standards.

Zimbabwe is reportedly losing up to US$100 million every month in leakages through sophisticated syndicates.

Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said President Mnangagwa had directed that the country’s radar system should be modernised.

“In this era, people use modern technology for all sorts of illegal activities and the President has said we should mechanise and upgrade our systems; hence the introduction of a new radar system.

“There are too many airstrips and we know that there are some small aircrafts which fly very low and are difficult to identify. This is due to the old radar system that urgently needs replacement.”

The new high-tech radar system, she said, will be installed in partnership with CAAZ.

“We are working with CAAZ to close the gaps used by these small aircraft to smuggle minerals, especially gold.

“So we are addressing the issue, and in due course you are going to see the changes. We are on top of the situation.”

CAAZ public relations and corporate communications manager Ms Anna-Julia Hungwe confirmed the ongoing exercise.

“It is our duty to advise Government on issues pertaining to our radar system. It is work in progress.

“Government is our shareholder, so we will continue to work together with them. We will advise on the progress that we will be making,” she said.

Presenting the 2021 National Budget last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the economy was losing potential revenue due to infrastructure deficiencies and operational arrangements that promote inefficiencies at some border posts and through the airspace.

Treasury accordingly allocated $3,8 billion to refurbish Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, while $200 million was allocated for construction of the tower at the J. M. Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.

Further, $550 million was disbursed towards rehabilitation and upgrading of Kariba, Buffalo Range and Grand Reef airports.

“The funds are expected to enhance airspace management in line with global standards.

“The priority in the aviation sector is to ensure that the country complies with the minimum requirements of the International Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the European Union Air Safety Committee.

“Compliance with the above will ensure that our aviation sub-sector moves from category 2 to category 1 that will result in increased access to the international markets.

“This would entail rehabilitation and upgrading of civil aviation facilities, with the ongoing works at the R.G. Mugabe International Airport being the most significant.

“Airspace management and air safety require immediate intervention through procurement and installation of the requisite equipment and leveraging on CAAZ’s cash flows,” he said.

-Sunday Mail