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MPs still skeptical about viability of Sikhuphe

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By Njabulo Dlamini - SWAZI OBSERVER-22-Sep-2009

MEMBERS of Parliament are still skeptical about the prospects of Sikhuphe International Airport bringing in revenue for the Kingdom.

At a Portfolio Committee meeting for parliamentarians held at Swaziland Water Services Corporation (SWSC) Emthonjeni building yesterday, MPs put Director of Civil Aviation Douglas Litchfield on the spotlight regarding the issue. They wanted to know on what strength government was basing the assertion that major airlines would use the airport upon completion in March next year.

Mpolonjeni MP Nicodemus ‘Ace’ Mashwama even asked for documentation to the effect that airlines had committed to using Sikhuphe Airport. He also wanted to know the sustainability of that airport located in the Eastern side of Swaziland. “What are the tangible indicators that there is a market for Sikhuphe?” he asked.

In response Litchfield said last year whilst in Malaysia they had met directors of major airlines and agencies. “Some of the airlines, such as Singapore, showed interest in Sikhuphe and other agencies as well were interested. “This is because we had the opportunity to market the airport in Malaysia,” he said adding that as Civil Aviation Directorate, they believed the Airport would be up and running by March 31, next year as envisaged.

He said this was because the construction of the airport at Sikhuphe was more than halfway through. Motshane MP Robert Magongo wanted to know what would become of the civil servants who were employed under the Directorate of Civil Aviation once Sikhuphe was up and running. Litchfield said Minister of Public Works and Transport Ntuthuko Dlamini had urged the ministry to open negotiations with NAPSAWU (National Public Servants and Allied Workers Union) to take care of such concerns.

“If you would ask me as director what I would in case I’m not re-engaged in the new structure I’ll simply go home,” he said He said they had kept the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) abreast about developments on the industry such as the new legislation passed by parliament recently and audit deficiencies.

“We even gave them a corrective action plan following the audit study conducted in July 2007 where they raised eight areas of concern. “The only downside is that we’re behind time as some of the corrective measures should have been in place by December 2008.”

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