by Ben Taylor
Growth and growing pains for Air Tanzania
The fleet of aircraft operated by Air Tanzania (ATCL) continues to grow, with the arrival in December of a new Bombardier Q400. This is the eighth aircraft (two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two Airbus A-220-300 and four Bombardier Q400s) to be purchased under the administration of President Magufuli, who has committed to reviving the national airline, with plans (and orders) in place to expand the fleet to eleven.
The plane’s arrival took place a day after President Magufuli had announced that the aircraft, which had previously been impounded in Canada in November had been released. The President did not give details of what was done that led to the release of the aircraft.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Palamagamba Kabudi, the seizure was because of a dispute between Tanzania and a South African farmer, Hermanus Steyn, “seeking compensation for a farm and other properties that was nationalized in the 1980s”. Mr Steyn had filed a claim in Canada.
This was the third seizure incident of an Air Tanzania aircraft, and the second in Canada. The third took place in August, when South African authorities impounded an Airbus 220-300 leased by Air Tanzania.
In October, ATCL indefinitely suspended flights to and from South Africa. The reason for the suspension was not disclosed, though it followed on from a temporary suspension that Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Isack Kamwelwe, had described as being “due to xenophobic violence”. However, suspicions remain that the court action in South Africa may have played a role. The temporary suspension was put in place in September, the day after the impounded plane was released.
The Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg route was launched in June 2019, with ATCL operating four flights a week. The maiden flight on the route saw a delegation from the national carrier turned away at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, blamed on a “miscommunication” between the airport and immigration officials. Two Tanzanian Ministers, several ATCL officials and journalists were denied entry into the airport for a welcome ceremony.
Progress with rail revival
Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) started operating a new scheduled train from Dar es Salaam to Moshi via Tanga in December 2019, following successful trial trip one week earlier.
TRC is restarting the route after 25 years with trains that will have eight passenger wagons and the capacity to transport 700 passengers.
Earlier in 2019, freight services connecting Tanga and Moshi were restarted, with the hope of reducing heavy transport of cement on the trunk roads connecting Arusha and Moshi with the coast. The route was briefly suspended in October following rain damage.
At the launch event for the freight route, the Prime Minister indicated that the long-disused section of the line between Moshi and Arusha would also be restored. TRC has also reported that a feasibility study for extending the line as far as Musoma has been completed.
The upgrade of the Central Line to standard gauge (SGR) has also seen progress. TRC Director General, Mr Masanja Kadogosa, said the construction of the first SGR section from Dar es Salaam from Morogoro has reached 72% completion while the Morogoro to Dodoma section has reached 22%. TSh 2.1 billion from internal sources has financed this work.
New ship to be called “MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu”
Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Isack Kamwelwe, has announced that a new ship under construction in Mwanza is to be called MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu.
The new ship, costing TSh 89 billion, will be 92.6 metres long, 17 metres wide and 11.2 metres high, with a carrying capacity of 1200 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo. Upon completion it will be owned and operated by the government, plying the waters of Lake Victoria.
‘Hapa Kazi Tu’ is a slogan President John Magufuli used during 2015 presidential campaign. The slogan translates as Just work, nothing else.
The minister explained that there is an official government committee that devises names for government projects.
While on a campaign trail in 2015, President John Magufuli promised to build a new ship to replace MV Bukoba which was involved in a tragic accident 1996.
Looks don’t matter at Air Tanzania, says Minister
Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Atastashta Nditiye sparked laughter in Parliament by stating that the government does not use beauty as a key criterion when hiring staff for Air Tanzania. He was responding to an MP calling on the airline to emulate other carriers by hiring staff with aesthetic qualities that attract clients to improve the airline’s visibility.
Nditiye explained there is a well laid down procedure that governs the hiring of staff at ATCL including that the applicant must be fluent in both Kiswahili and English and must have a certificate in either airport ground service or in-flight service. “Above all they must be of good conduct which has to be proven,” said Mr Nditiye.