Fly Africa’s management must be in panic mode now that a court in Harare made public what has been whispered behind closed doors and in the corridors of the country’s aviation industry: Serious safety concerns need to be addressed first before the airline can resume operations, dealing a blow to Fly Africa from which it may not recover.
‘PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER’ did Justice Amy Tsanga of the High Court in Harare tell Fly Africa, a sharpish warning that if the safety concerns which were unearthed when the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority took a closer look at the airline, are not addressed immediately they may never get their AOC back.
CAAZ carried out detailed investigations, according to information received from Harare and during the process established that the airline had apparently no substantive accountable manager in breach of Part 188.8.131.52 of the applicable Statutory Instrument.
It was apparently also established that Fly Africa was registered in Zimbabwe but effectively controlled from South Africa, again in violation to relevant regulations.
To make matters worse did Fly Africa not have a local head of maintenance and the maintenance manuals were reportedly not compliant. Towards that end did the CAAZ indicate and confirm that the letter written from the local shareholder was not the reason for the suspension of the airline, but it only triggered the authority’s independent investigations to suspend Fly Africa’s operations for safety reasons.
Justice Tsanga, obviously in reaction to the report compiled by CAAZ, which justified the suspension of the operations of Fly Africa, advised the airline to put its house in order first, if it was serious about the lifting of the temporary ban. This applied to local rules and regulations must be observed instead of complaining about the CAAZ decision
Justice Tsanga also said in her ruling that while the letter from the local shareholder to the CAAZ was damaging, it was merely exposing the chaos in the organization. ‘Whilst the letter by Mr. Karase was damaging, it was in the sense exposing the depth of the problems that applicant was facing. This was against the added backdrop of what emerged to CAAZ as being compounded (by) its management impasse, which it could not simply overlook in terms of safety implications’ did the court say.
This leaves the operation of Fly Africa in Zimbabwe in tatters and another date will pass without operations resuming.
Now clearly is the time for CEO Adrian Hamilton-Manns to answer some searching questions, such as ‘How many tickets has Fly Africa sold for flights within, from and to Zimbabwe since the 28th of October? How many refunds for such tickets affected by the flight ban have been processed so far? Have you now finally stopped selling tickets until CAAZ has restored the AOC? When will the airline provide full disclosure about what was known when?
Not that answers are expected since the airline has gone into ‘Wagenburg’ mode and has only issued statements which did not at any time refer to the safety issues quoted by the court nor apparently processed refunds. In fact, comments on the airline’s webpage have become so stinging and explicit that the entire section on their Facebook page were removed, leaving only direct comments to the wishy washy statements issued since the 28th of October, a day when an innocently posed question ‘Are you flying’ was answered with what in diplomatic terms would be called misleading. What followed were panicky reactions speaking of the media making accusations, before taking it to the next level of threatening to sue for exposing the unfolding saga. Events since that day however have proven that the airline remains grounded for the foreseeable future until the CAAZ can be sure of full compliance with Zimbabwe’s air service regulations, local regulations and laws.
Commiserations to the affected passengers, albeit with a grain of salt, that they should have known better than to book and pay for tickets on days where it was clear for industry observers that the airline would not, could not fly.
In a related development was it also confirmed that the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority is finalizing arrangements to designate other airlines for the routes Fly Africa holds but cannot fly, to provide Zimbabweans and visitors from outside with other options to reach Harare and Bulawayo.