It simply doesn’t make sense that Edgar Lungu and his type sat in a ‘cabinet’ meeting and agreed to rob Zambia of $30 million to give Ethiopian airline under the pretext of reviving Zambia Airways.
But what other outcome can you expect from a rats meeting chaired by Lungu and attended by the likes of Inonge Wina, Stephen Kapyongo et al?
What benefit will Zambia derive from having a plane written ‘Zambia Airways’ while losing money on a worthless project? Is there national pride in having a national airline run and managed by Ethiopians?
In case you are lost, here is the brief.
Edgar Lungu and his fellow rats say they will revive Zambia Airways, a project that was shut down after the fall of Unip and Kenneth Kaunda in the early 90s. It was shut down because it was not making any profit but instead government was pumping in money to keep it running. While the Unip government was wasting money on the unproductive Zambia airways, there was no medicine in hospitals. Civil servants were not paid. Now Lungu and his colleagues have ‘reasoned’ that Zambia Airways should not have been liquated (closed) but re-capitalised (given more money) and work force cut.
To revive Zambia Airways, Lungu and his friends have set aside US$30 Million – our money. As if this was not outrageous and stupid enough, Lungu and his colleagues will give this money to Ethiopian Airline to manage Zambia airways. They call it a strategic partnership whereby Zambia will have 55 percent shares while Ethiopian Airline will own 45 per cent.
Ethiopians are smiling at this folly which will benefit them immensely.
Ethiopian Airline is the biggest carrier in Africa. It is technically the best, and while other airlines such as South Africa Airways are making losses, Ethiopian airline is registering profits. But remember, it is wholly (100%) owned by the government of Ethiopia. It is the pride of Ethiopia and has been so from the time Emperor Haile Selassie established it in 1945. While Ethiopian Airline is owned by the government of Ethiopia, management is fully independent. It does not condone political interference. That is why it is a success story despite having being owned by successive frail governments.
In short, Ethiopian Airline looks at profit and profit alone. Of course, the profit goes to the government of Ethiopia. So in this ‘strategic partnership’ with Zambia, Ethiopian Airline is interested in one thing: making profit for the government of Ethiopia.
Ethiopians are not foolish. They can not help raise a competitor. But if a competitor comes along with $30 million and says he wants Ethiopian airline to manage his business, they will certainly not refuse.
They did the same to Air Malawi. The Malawians government gave Ethiopian Airline powers to run Air Malawi under some ill conceived contract similar to the one Zambia has entered into. Under that agreement, Ethiopian Airline took up 45 per cent of shares in Air Malawi, previously owned by the government of Malawi. But despite having minority shares in Air Malawi, Ethiopian Airline got the right to manage the airline without interference from the Malawian government. But Malawi has not received any profit upto now.
This is what will happen even under the Zambian arrangement. It will be Ethiopian Airline that will decide the routes and time table that Zambia Airways will operate. The Pilots will be Ethiopian with probably a few Zambians to serve tea on board (airhosts). It will be Ethiopians Airline that will sale tickets for Zambian airways and the accountants will be Ethiopians.
And here is the most stupid part. Since Ethiopian airline will own 45% of Zambian Airways, the two planes that the Zambian regime will buy, will belong to both Ethiopia and Zambia, even though they will be bought by Zambia alone. Meanwhile, Zambia will have no share in any Ethiopian plane. Once Zambia releases that US$30 Million it pledged, the money will no longer belong to Zambia but to Ethiopia and Zambia. That is how contact and business law works. So, Zambia will buy two planes for Zambia airways using Zambian money. But once those planes are registered as Zambia Airways property, Ethiopia Airline, which owns 45 % of Zambia Airways becomes one of the 2 legal owners. Zambia can not sale those planes unless Ethiopia agrees 45% of the money will go to Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Airlines has been trying to acquire the right to manage Arik Air, the biggest private Nigerian airline. This airline was placed under the control of the Nigerian government after it failed to meet dues as they fell. Ethiopian Airline thought it saw a chance. But Nigerian gave them stringent conditions that include transparency in the way the airline is managed. Ethiopia Airline pulled out.
Edgar Lungu can not convince any one that he can run anything especially Zambia Airways better than Kenneth Kuanda did. You can not compare KK to Lungu on anything. The only thing Lungu is better than Kaunda is theft. There Lungu can only compete with Fredrick Chiluba. If Kaunda failed to Manage Zambia Airways, Lungu can not manage a bar owned by Zambia Airways. Kaunda established projects to respond to the challenges of his time. There is no need to try and imitate what Kuanda was doing in 1970. Times, technology, needs, the environment and the people themselves have changed. Current rulers must know what the challenges of the present are.
People should learn to stop thinking backwards, especially when they fail to come up with innovative ideas. Zambia Airways belongs to the dust bin of history and must be left there unless one wants to write a book about the history of Zambian aviation.
It is funny that Stephen Kapyongo who announced the ‘partnership’ with Ethiopian Airline said:
“We have learnt lessons on how Zambia Airways failed to conduct business and going forward, there will be no interference with the running of the new face Zambia Airlines.’
Yet, in the next sentence he said, the first flight will be on October 24 and Edgar Lungu will be be on it.