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Alba Iulia
Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Zambia Airways demise-Was the decision to ground the airline correct?

Columns Zambia Airways demise-Was the decision to ground the airline correct?

QZ Cabin Crew

It was December 4th 1994 when then Vice President Brigadier Godfrey Miyanda announced the announcement on state television that the national flag carrier Zambia Airways was no more. The Zambian government had decided to enter liquidation.

What followed was months and years of uncertainty especially among the workers of the defunct airline as they waited to be paid their terminal benefits.

23 years on, debate is still rife on whether the decision to strike a hammer on the wings of Zambia Airways was the correct one. The debate has now even ignited following moves by the Zambian government to relaunch Zambia Airways.

Jacob Chisela who worked as Aircraft Maintenance Manager at Zambia Airways from 1988 to1994 said the 23-year anniversary of the closure of Zambia Airways is a sad day.

Below is Mr Chisela’s write up posted on Facebook

Zambia Airways Plane

When I started thinking, I was thinking one day, one week, no, one month. to be precise, one sad season. One day I am sitting in my office. There is a knock on the door and in walks a man who introduced himself as representing The Bank of New York. Was in charge of the aircraft. Yes, I was. So the man demands “I have come to take the two ATR42 aircraft.”

I am shocked and confused. The man then produces papers that truly seem to give the man authority over the two ATRs. I tell the man that while it was my responsibility to look after the aircraft for the airline, I did not have authority to give them away. I held the aircraft on the behalf of the true owners of the aircraft, the Zambian citizens. If the man wanted one man to give him the aircraft, he would have to go to President Chiluba. Voices were raised, tempers flared. Sorry I couldn’t stand the fellow so I grabbed his shirt and jacket and thrust him out of my office.

My secretary had summoned help from officers in Purchasing and planning departments. After further words and permission from my Managing Director. All of a sudden came three young men and a young woman all dressed like vagabonds. They went to the two ATRs which were parked on the maintenance apron. Two per aircraft, they did their quick pre-flights and jumped in the aircraft. within minutes, the engines were running and one after the other they taxied off. Transfixed we all turned automatically to the runway and watched the aircraft take off and disappear before our eyes.

A few days later, there was another Repossession team. This time they came for the DC8-71. Slowly the long handsome aircraft taxied away as the crew visibly checked that all systems were functioning properly. the Captain did a shallow take off so lazily as though the aircraft did not want to leave Zambia. Slowly we watched as the machine sliced into the clouds and disappeared.

The DC10 had been grabbed at Heathrow Airport and flown to New Jersey. The Second B737 had months earlier gone to BEDEK, an Israeli aircraft maintenance organisation. The aircraft could not be released because of outstanding payments.

By 1st December 1994, poor Zambia Airways had only the B737 9J-AEG attempting to cover all of Zambia Airways routes and schedules. The aircraft would fly to Ndola, Lusaka, Harare, Johannesburg, Lusaka, Dar es Salaam, to the wee hours of the morning and only to start again at 6:45hrs.

Then it was 4th December and just after the evening TV News at about 22:15 Hours our Vice President then Brid Gen Miyanda filled the TV screen and delivered the devastating news of voluntary liquidation. No warning, No preparation NO Plan B Nothing. Like the East wind it is gone and blown to the west. Time for mourning and crying is gone. Our leaders failed us. Now may be we must think to fix things ourselves. Allow me to say “To better days Ahead”


  1. The discussion on whether was correct or incorrect to liquidate the company should have taken place before liquidating the company. Why do we like thinking in reverse? …and why hold on to the past (nostalgia)?
    You blundered, just learn a lesson and move on.

    • I presume the guy wants to find out whether the reasons that lead to the liquidation are still there or not otherwise we would find ourselves in the same situation as before

    • Bring it back. It went under because half of the seats were being occupied by members of staff and their relatives who were fond of allocating themselves free airtickets even to places as far as New York.

    • @big luger, you are right. But the only problem is that we are always doing post-postmortems like this and very little of ante-mortems.

    • God shall not allow when you don’t know the history of a matter it is better to shut up. Brigadier General Miyanda pleaded with president Chiluba to leave the airline intact and put measures to save it. Zambia airways would have still been here had Miyanda and Mwanawasa been Zambia’s one and two.

  2. Can our Govt, with all taints and scars of corruption run business effectively and efficiently,let alone profitably????. Running an airline is not just about “flying the national flag”, it’s business and tough business considering the costs of ,planes,fuel to say nothing about safety and insurance costs.It’s sad Zambia Airways was snuffed out like killing a mosquito, but truth be told, it was a big drain on public funds and thank God it closed, because with the current Govt procurement trends we are witnessing ( eg. Fire Trucks saga) we would lose tons of Life.

  3. If Zambia was a company, it would have been liquidated a long time ago just like Zambia Airways. Zambia Airways was an epitome of corruption and mismanagement. Government officials, employees and management rode on the planes free of change for many years. What do you expect ?

    • Unfortunately, a free lunch is deeply embedded in our current national psychology, it’s so easy to tell this is the cause of a myriad of our problems, and I’m not surprised it’s one of the reasons cited to have led to the downfall of Zambia Airways.

      At least I flew in one of those planes, the first aircraft I ever flew in, Zambia Airways.

  4. Zambia is a failed nation. They will certainly fail again to run Zambia Airways unless in partnership with a foreign company

  5. Yeah, Govt has NO Business to be in Business as they don’t have the sacred know how! For all we know, the current Zambian Govt. is a loose collection of Street Smarts who have one common agenda; to squeeze juice frm any ongoing Venture/Deal/Tender etc! The current team lacks the basics of running Business. It would have been disastrous had they found Zambia Airways! Watch them operate their recently acquired, thru Loans, the Russian Aircrafts! Then you will get to know their limitations.

  6. Poor management, leadership and corruption killed Zambia Airways!
    The workers where always getting free or cheap tickets to the US and UK….how can you survive with such culture!
    Look at South African Airways….its also so broke that it is about to close….Cry the beloved Country!

  7. This was a sad development, indeed. I did work for the Airline, almost two years, from 1972 to 1974, when I resigned and switched to another career.

  8. The decision to liquidate the hopeless airline was made in the best interest of the nation to save govnt coffers…FTC, We ll remember you for this as one of your achievements during you reign!!!!!
    Zmbian stop dreaming and move on, that former british colony has no capacity to run an airline in the current complicated global aviation industry!!!! if anything, ZESCO should be next..

  9. MMD were a disgrace in government.Just to think they had the good will of the Nation and yet delivered one of the biggest industrial destruction of our time in Zambia is sickening. Them MMD only knew how to “ obey the West orders” … that’s why. Absolute bootlickers inspite an array own Zambian graduates serving the system

    • The biggest problem zambia has to deal with is its population. 99% of zambian adults, with universal suffrage, are pathetic illiterates consisting mainly of primary school drop outs and hardcore tribalists. The other component is made up of half baked sub intelligent graduates from zambia’s numerous universities or colleges. It is therefore not surprising that zambians cannot understand a thing as “liquidating” a company and the circumstances under which that happen let alone privatisation policies. At their level, zambians can only understand trash like “more money in your pocket” or the “90 days” rubbish. Otherwise with proper knowledge the question of whether Zambia airways. …………….does not even arise. Iiquidation of zambia airways was a straight forward case of dealing with a…

  10. At that time that was the best thing as govt had literally no money and the only condition given by the WB was to privatise the mines and for parastatals which were not making profits and in deep debts must go voluntary liquidation except as Zambian culture we cry when we are hurt instead of putting safety measures or what I can call a safety valve of some sort.I hear there are plans of reviving the airline of pride which is very wrong coz out of pride there’s an attempt to bring back UBZ like bus company under ministry of youth&sport called empowerment buses now look at what is happening on the very buses it is total abuse bcoz some buses are parked in various districts they have no tyres,diesel or very minor faults but bcoz of management from both govt and the association concerned but…

  11. Letting go of Zambia airways was the right thing to do. Why maintain a loss making business in the first place? Employees of the Zambia airways and officials in the UNIP government are also partly to blame for the free flights for themselves, their wives, children, relatives,concubines and friends. Zambians like to live beyond their means. I get surprised each time I walk into a club and observe the type of drinks that Zambians consume, expensive imported stuff. It is even worse with women who demand very expensive drinks from their men folk, drinks that they can not even afford themselves. You can not even differentiate who is a prostitute and who is not because even descent and married women compete with prostitutes in terms of public behavior.

  12. Mr Chisela, it was a limited company. was not necessary to raise tempers and grab the messenger. you should have just refered and directed the gentleman to the MD office. It’s very unfortunate that workers and yourself included suffered untold misery, and have not completely received benefits to date. Some of notable individuals who were contracted to privatize our parastatals include Mutembo, HH, you can also remember others. we should be asking these individuals a lot of questions and hold them to account for the proceeds of privatization. However, incentives such as free air tickets for households was total abuse of the company. I can only guess that politicians and friends must have taken advantage of this. Certain incentives leads to corruption and eventually collapse of companies…

  13. I was at Masiye Motel in Lusaka when the announcement was made. Can’t comment but would still insist that before getting rid of our parastatals a serious study should have been taken to find out why these companies were loss making. Otherwise this is just dirty water under the bridge.

  14. they failed to manage running of the Buses (UBZ) can they manage to run the planes ? all is difficult to manage lets thats keep watching.

  15. I’m sure General Miyanda, who is so analytical in his social media articles, will say something on this in order to show that ‘express’ liquidation was the ‘best’ option for Zambia Airways; including the pan African bank, Meridian.

  16. Whenever something evil happens in Zambia, you will undoubtedly hear the name Brigadier Godfrey Miyanda! Coup plot, KK Roger Chongwe assassination attempt, UNZA fiasco, revival of the reviled Public Order Act, taking shower at State House with Sangoma etc. the failed soldier is a dangerous menace to society!

  17. Maybe they should detain him and torture him like KK did until the lousy soldier excreted stinking faeces in his combat, cimuntu cimukulu conse kuzinyelela sure, shouten!

  18. And if you ask him about the PoA, Zambia Airways, sangomic showers at State House or “dangerful” coup plotting, he will claim it was collective responsibility! What a demagogue! Maybe someone should just put the lunatic out of his miserable life!

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