Maputo — Mozambican Transport Minister Paulo Zucula declared on Friday that Mozambican airspace is already liberalized, and he invited all those interested to invest in civil aviation and exploit the national market.
Speaking at a ceremony at Maputo International Airport, where the country's national carrier, Mozambique Airlines (LAM) baptized two new aircraft, Zucula said "I have heard that we need to liberalise our airspace so that more Mozambican companies can operate, but you should know that the airspace is already free. Come and invest. Come and fly".
"I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Mozambican air companies to participate actively in the development of the national economy, and of tourism in particular", he added. Currently there are 13 air companies certified by the national civil aviation authorities. Apart from LAM, only Kaya airlines has operated regular passenger flights (on the Maputo-Beira, Maputo-Vilanculo, Maputo-Tete and Maputo-Nampula routes).
The others mostly operate charter flights, mainly for tourists, and crop-spraying operations. The Mozambican private sector's complaints about aviation are not concerned so much with liberalization as with the red tape involved in acquiring licences to operate. Last June, at a meeting with the then Prime Minister, Aires Ali, the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA) said that the large number of procedures required for licensing makes it prohibitive for new air companies to operate.
Furthermore, those interested have to wait not only for the regulatory body, the Mozambique Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), to issue a licence, but also for authorization from the Defence Ministry.
At this meeting, the CTA made a devastating critique of the incompetence of the IACM. "The current performance of the IACM remains below the expectations of national and international air companies", said the CTA, in the document it presented to the government proposing reforms in the sector. "This is because the people in management positions are not fit to head the institution".
The LAM chairperson, Teodoro Waty, had a completely different approach to liberalization to that expressed by Zucula. Clearly he did not believe that the country's airspace is already open, for at the Friday ceremony he remarked "some people, fortunately only a few of them, think that it's enough to open up the airspace, and we would have a lot of aircraft with cheap flights. For these few people, I suppose it is not enough to recommend that they consult an optician".
He stressed that LAM is in a healthy financial condition. The vitality of the company was evident and this was due to "good decisions taken by the government". Waty also reacted to the European Commission's ban on all Mozambique-registered airlines, including LAM, from flying in European Union airspace. The ban was imposed in April 2011, and, contrary to LAM's expectations, it was not lifted this year.
The problem lies, not with LAM or with any other airline, but with the failure of the IACM, as the regulatory body, to follow international standards. The European Commission's decision was based on a January 2010 audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which detected irregularities in the certification of air operators, in aeronautical regulations, and in technical and institutional capacity building – areas which are the responsibility of the IACM.
Waty declared that anyone who thought that the ban on flying to Europe would be a death blow to LAM was seriously mistaken. "Here we are, making more investments, and able to display the safety certificates issued by IATA (International Air Transport Association) and the ICAO in 2010, and renewed in 2011 and 2012", he said.
"Our pride and our self-esteem make us believe that we shall maintain these certificates, which is the best thing you can have in an aviation company", Waty added.
He had words of ridicule for those foreigners who are refusing to fly with LAM. "Anyone who is going to Beira, but needs to pass through Johannesburg first, merely shows that he has no respect for the finances of his institution, whether it is a company or a government", he said.