Monday, May 20, 2024

Zambia Airways: The first sign of abuse will be wrong appointments


Zambia Airways Plane

So, you will bring back the airline?

So, you ignored my reservations to bring back Zambia Airways and instead are going ahead to make it work. Many reactions came and some overwhelmingly so from former employees, who stand to gain most and, that is understandable. Yet, I continue to worry and maintain that it will be a smiling mask whose behind will remain empty. And, as before, I can predict that the IMF and World Bank will use the airline as the main source of criticism, arguing that it is not productive. They have said it before, that one of the main problems with Zambia’s debt is that it is not used in productive sectors to generate economic structural transformation. It goes into roads, when Zambians can build their own roads with local resources like Ethiopians do. There are more productive things that Zambia can learn from Ethiopia than rushing for the easy things like partnership of the airlines. Ethiopians don’t borrow as much as Zambia does.

You must avoid the culture of corruption in recruitment

But the main point of this article is that the first test of good governance for the Government will be in the method of appointments of the Zambians that will be working for the Zambia airways, from chief executive officer, to managers, hostesses, pilots to cleaners. This is where the first frustration of the Zambians who are now supporting the cause will come from. Time will tell. But there is no past track record to show that things will be done meritoriously and ethically. The culture of corruption, manifested in tribalism, partyism, nepotism and other vices has become so pervasive that there are so signs of slowing down simply because of Zambia airways. Every minister, member of parliament and businessman and woman now has an opportunity to show case their corrupt tendencies and for sure, they all await this opportunity to reap where they did not sow except by supporting the venture. The personnel manager will only be in name because he will not recruit according to qualifications. He will be told what to do. His phone will be chocked with SMS messages giving orders on who to employ. Although positions will be correctly advertised, you can be sure that they will mean nothing. It is the SMS and telephone calls that will decide the direction that recruitment will take.

Like I said earlier, there is no track record of merit appointments in this country. Yet, that is one of the causes of the economic swamp in which we today are. Something that no one in the leadership recognizes as a priority to address. We simply appoint anyone into anything without bothering about the long-term implications.

There is need for a new system of recruitment

The country urgently needs a better recruitment system, not just for Zambia Airways but other positions including appointments in embassies abroad. The culture of one person appointing almost everyone in almost all employment positions is not sustainable and lacks good governance. At least, the head of state should leave appointments of civil servants and parastatal jobs with the responsible heads. For example, the public service commission should be given its past role of appointing civil servants in embassies and permanent secretary positions. For Zambia Airways, I would even involve all relevant Zambian organizations dealing with issues of personnel and recruitment to ensure transparency and merit. I do know that if left to the organization itself to recruit, there will be no merit or transparency at all. Isn’t it time that the head of state exonerated himself from appointments and hand over to the right Zambians to do the job? The past Zambia Airways was corrupt in terms of recruitment and left to the organization alone, this scourge is likely to continue. There will be social problems for young females looking for jobs in the organization, and this we all know. If the west is up in arms trying to address this issue of sex abuse, the same cannot be said about our country. We don’t have institutions that can help innocent women. So, one way is to use the right way of recruitment which is transparent and fails to subject innocent young females to abuse, after all, prevention is better than cure.

Include people from Rural Areas in employment

The other important element that must not left out in the recruitment process is to ensure that all provinces, districts or regions are represented, not by simply employing them but through use of merit because they all have young people who are academically educated but perhaps lack experience in the airline business. It will be both politically and socially absurd to rush and recruit only the elite, or people from Lusaka, Copperbelt of places in urban areas and simply ignore our young people in rural areas. We must find a system of inclusiveness and merit and desist from falling into the same temptation of giving nice things to only people from the ruling party. Employment in Zambia Airways should not be based on partisan arrangements. I know that for the ruling party, Zambia airways might represent an opportunity for rewarding party cadres and I m sure that is likely to be the case. If we do that, that will be sowing seeds of destruction for the very airline that people have argued is important for boosting tourism and improving the economy.

Former employees will require fresh training

It has taken many years since we last saw Zambia Airways and even its former staff. Although they say, “Once a driver, always one,” former staff will require extensive training before going back into their former offices and jobs. Many intervening variables have taken place. Some people switched to completely different jobs. Flying people is not the same as flying cargo. These people will all require training. And that costs money. Where will this money come from? Some may argue that we have an existing school at the airport but that too needs money to revamp and clean it up. Workshops will need money to bring them back to life as airports too. Offices will also need money to reorganize them. Where will the money for fuel come from and who will pay back all these costs? Staff will need to be housed perhaps as was the case before and these too need money as transporting them to and from work too will need money. Training pilots to fly is not free but will require money for fuel, oil and maintenance.

Remove the mask of cheating

Final warning. One of the main problems facing this country is that everyone is so clever that if you are a visitor to the country, you would think that this cleverness also means that we tell the truth. We say so many nice things. We smile so much in front of the camera. We give so many nice arguments and explanations to things and in no time, people looking at the front of the mask think that we mean what we say. But truth is, what lies behind the mask represents the main reality and core problem of this country. I hope the arguments given for bringing back Zambia Airways will be translated into reality and not simply another deception that has different objectives. Again, only time will tell.

By Economic. Governance


  1. This is a very good article. It speaks the reality. The author is not tribalistic!
    Actually, appointments based on relatives and political connections are the worst forms of corruption.


  2. and when there are wrong appointments what are we going to do about it? The problem is that we have no systems to check and correct any abuse that is inevitable to happen at the airline because we have not learnt the lessons that brought Zambia Airways down nor the reality of the business environment we want to resurrect it in. So its inevitable that we will repeat the same mistakes and you and me wont/cant do a damn thing about it!

  3. Good article. Generally if things were being done the way you’ve guided in this article, most of our parastatals will be profitable organizations.

  4. chief executive officer = Ethiopian
    Managers = majority Ethiopians
    Hostesses = of course
    Pilots = majority Ethiopians
    Cleaners = Zambians
    Maintenance Crew = Ethiopians (planes to serviced in Addis Ababa)

    Malawians are complaining as there are no benefits to the partnership with Ethiopian Airlines

  5. The “wrong ” appointments are inborn in Zambians. There’s nothing wrong in appointing my son as manager if he’s qualified, skilled and dedicated to duty. The problem comes in when those appointed abuse the appointment because their relative is the big bwana of the company. When we develop the attitude of forgetting how we got employed and just concentrate on what we’re supposed to do. …to deliver, then there will be no ” wrong ” appointments.

    • Thank you that you know the problem that comes from appointing relatives! That is the main reason why recruitment or appointments should be on merit to maintain professionalism through out the ranks.

  6. Very sound advise and we can only hope Brian Mushimba is taking note. He has argued for this business and our sincere hope is that he runs it as a BUSINESS not as a PF tool. Indeed it should not be a business to employ 1000 cadres doing nothing but eating more than the revenue coming in please run this thing prudently!

  7. He needs further consultation and review though???

    Kenya Airways Limited advised on financial restructuring

    Posted 23 November 2017 · Add Comment

    Global law firm White & Case has advised Kenya Airways Limited on its US$2 billion financial restructuring.

    Key features of the restructuring include a reprofiling of payments owed to operating and finance lessors, a conversion of debts into newly issued equity in the company and the provision of a new multi-purpose facility from Kenyan banks. Following the transaction, Kenya Airways has been repositioned for long term growth and is around 90 percent owned by the Government of the Republic of Kenya and a group of 11 local banks.

    “Our cross-practice team advised on a significant and multi-faceted transaction involving…

  8. multiple jurisdictions that ultimately required the agreement of creditors, shareholders, the Kenyan government and other key stakeholders to the business,” said London-based White & Case partner Christian Pilkington, who led the Firm’s deal team. “The leadership and participation of US EXIM Bank was also instrumental to the success of the restructuring.”

    “White & Case delivered the combined strength of its experience in African restructurings and aviation finance to successfully execute a complex transaction that ensures the stability of a strategically important national transport resource,” said London-based White & Case partner Justin Benson.

  9. I worked for an airline and when they say its expensive to run i know what that means. Our GVT doesnt want to listen but this airline will not go anywhere. We should have started with empowering and educating locals to fly. The same leaders who are encouraging this formation will be the ones pointing figures that this one failed us. Shame. Ask where Richard Kachingwe is!!!!!

  10. Regional preferences in recruitment only become corruption where unqualified and inexperienced individuals get hired at the expense of qualified and experienced individuals. In Zambia this is extremely rare as rotations are common among executives. It does not matter whether public or private sector is involved, Zambians may discriminate but not completely gratuitously. It is impossible for Zambia Airways to place cleaners in technical and managerial positions. If you are looking for explanations behind the collapse of former Zambia Airways, then point to political interference in the form of unpaid bills and other forms of financial pressure. You are always welcome aboard Zambia Airways.

  11. Its’ quite mind boggling to see how some of our folks come out with scathing negative attacks at the very mention of formation of a Flag Career. Surely should we be proud of flying on other African Airlines only? We would rather benefit from services sustained and subsdised by other African Governments at their own costs than launch our own. International Airline operations is vital for a land locked Country like ours. All we read about from the critics are negatives derived from liquidated Zambia Airways and yet there were so many positives to learn from an Airline that existed from 1967 to 1994 (27 years), pioneer Airline in the region to feature an all indigenous national Pilots and Flight Engineers before other Countries in the region including those who were under apartheid could…

  12. ever dream of seeing black Africans flying wide bodied International Planes. Most of the former Zambia Airways Pilots scored highly during their Pilot Training in UK, Europe, USA, Ethiopia, France and Australia breaking records. Air Botswana, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, DAS Air Cargo are some of the foreign Airlines where former Zambia Airways Pilots and Engineers were absorbed, bearing in mind they were trained at a great cost to the nation. Some former Zambia Airways Engineers work for Boeing in USA, the Director of Operations at Rwanda Air is a former Zambia Airways Pilot. In Zambia we have Proflight an Airline started by a former Zambia Airways Pilot Tony Irwin, Captain Lemba a Director at Proflight is also an ex Zambia Airways Pilot, there is also NAC2000 Corporation…

  13. National Aircharters was a Cargo subsidiary of Zambia Airways, another success story, these are some of shining examples attributed to Zambia Airways. In every organisation you have the good, the bad and the ugly, we need to give credit to the many men and women who made Zambia Airways a shining Eagle in the sky than dwell on negatives, many of them have passed on.

  14. It is also important to take note that Zambia Airways was not insolvent as its’ assets outweighed the liabilities by a large margin. If in doubt consultant the liquidators. Zambia Airways regularly made operation profit on the Lusaka-London-Lusaka route right up to its’ closure, to mention one of the routes that were quite profitable. The Lusaka-London-Lusaka route alone sufficed to take care of the entire Zambia Airways salary bill. The Lusaka-Monrovia-New York route fell apart when war broke out in Liberia, it was a major cash cow and most popular with weekend travelers between Monrovia and New York, on the Cargo part Liberia was a good market for Beef Exports from Zambia. Other attractive routes were Lusaka- Bombay, Lusaka-Mauritius, Lusaka-Johannesburg. Airline business is not all…

  15. passenger traffic, cargo is a major component of airline business, The Zambia Export Growers Association benefited greatly from having direct flights by Zambia Airways from Lusaka, later British Airways Cargo took over the route and Das Air Cargo owned by a Ugandan. When BA Cargo abandoned the route and DAS Air ceased operating some of the farmers had to rely on ground transport to the a points outside Zambia where their produce would eventually be uplifted to overseas markets.

  16. As a pilot and flying instructor, I am ardently interested in having sustainable Private Air Industry and National Airlines in Zambia.

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