Sunday 2018-12-16

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KING’S JET TO LAND IN APRIL

By Mbono Mdluli | 2018-03-10

By next month, the much-awaited State Jet is expected to be delivered in the country.

This was disclosed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze yesterday.

He said this in the House of Assembly when Members of Parliament (MPs) wanted an update on the status of the State Jet, an Airbus A340.

Gamedze said the refurbishments on the jet were now at an advanced stage and pilots expected to fly the plane were expected to leave for the Republic of China on Taiwan next week, where the aircraft is being refurbished.

“Some of the recruited pilots are Swazis and they are ready to fly the plane into the country. I am quite sure that by the time the country celebrates its 50/50, the plane will be here,” Gamedze said.

The minister further clarified that the aeroplane would be under the guard of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF).

He said the USDF personnel had all the skills and capabilities of guarding the airplane, hence they gave that task to the USDF.

However, the technicians and all the people who would be working on the aircraft would be from the Royal Swaziland National Airways Corporation (RSNAC), a parastatal under the ministry of public works and transport.

The reason the plane was placed under the company was that there was an intention of using the plane to generate money for the country.

This would be impossible if the plane was to be completely under the USDF. The plane would be kept at King Mswati III International Airport.

At the KM III airport, a hanger (aircraft garage) would be built and the costs would be taken care of by the ministry of economic planning and development, under the Millennium Projects.

“The costs for building the hanger are said to be around E200 million. It must be said though that the hanger would be built to accommodate the plane in question and the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 (Siyinqaba), which has been in the country’s possession for some time,” the minister revealed.

Committed

In April last year, our sister newspaper, the Swazi Observer, reported that government had committed US$12.65 million to buy the aircraft from Taiwan. In our currency, that money is equivalent to more than E150.5 million.

Gamedze, during a meeting with his portfolio committee back then, said the aircraft would be conducive for use by His Majesty King Mswati III when attending meetings in countries abroad because it was bigger than Siyinqaba. It was also capable of spending about 15 hours on air before landing for a fuel re-fill, as opposed to Siyinqaba, which could only last for about six hours.

In terms of capacity, the plane can carry between 60 to 90 passengers. With Siyinqaba, that is about 30.

Govt spends E700m on airline

Government is said to have spent around E760 million trying to come up with a national airline.

This transpired yesterday when MPs who were members of the portfolio committee of the ministry of public works and transport were debating the budget of the works ministry.

Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini is the one who questioned why government was spending so much money on just the airline.

“We were told that the country was buying its own aircraft because we had to save on costs of renting airplanes. Now what bothers me is the money we seem to be spending on this whole project. We spent almost E200 million in buying the aircraft, E200 million on building a hanger, and E360 million on resuscitating RSNAC,” MP Sikhumbuzo said. The legislator wondered where government would take the money from.

Minister for Public Works and Transport Lindiwe Dlamini said it was necessary for the country to invest in the national airline.

She said doing such would be helpful for the country because it would prove to be cost-effective. She said the country had a wonderful facility (King Mswati III International Airport) that was under-utilised because no airline operated from the airport.

It was because of that reason that the country had resorted to invest on the airline. The country even opted to rope in President Dhlamini to be the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Swazi National Airways Corporation (RSNAC), which would be taking care of the State Jet.

Dhlamini came with experience as he was once a pilot of Lijubantsendzele and Ludvondvolo, two of the aircrafts that were once owned by the country.

He had been working for a private aviation company, when he was hired by government to lead the RSNAC. The minister urged the MPs and all Swazis to support government in this initiative as it was going to be helpful in the long run.

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