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“Whose interests do you serve?” ask aviation pundits over ministerial outburst

“Whose interests do you serve?” ask aviation pundits over ministerial outburst

Tanzania’s Transport Minister, Prof. Makame Mbarawa, has been challenged to provide facts over his recent outburst against the main ground-handling agency at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).

Swissport, Tanzania’s oldest and largest aviation ground-handling agency, got into the cross hairs of the Minister when he made sweeping accusations, but failed to provide any factual evidence about alleged poor services and of blocking rival companies from doing business at the airport.

Aviation pundits attribute the minister’s lashing out at diverting attention from a fire last week at the airport’s baggage storage, which prompted operations to be conducted from Terminal 1 instead of the usual Terminal 2 until the fire had been brought under control.

While no causes of the fire have been established yet, an electrical failure has not been ruled out either at this point, as installations in the terminal are decades old and have not been upgraded or modernized. The same sources also say that the airport authority has taken their eyes off the ball, i.e., is only concerned with the completion of the new terminal building and is spending less and less on the upkeep of the present international terminal. Sources in Dar es Salaam claim it is a political oversight failure on the side of the Transport Ministry, hence the possible attempt to divert attention to an innocent victim.

No comment was received from Swissport which, it is understood, are awaiting details of the minister’s allegation over poor services, although in the meantime, clients have sprung to Swissport’s defense with the staff of three key airlines saying they are satisfied with the performance of their handling agent in Dar es Salaam.

“That mud throwing has zero credibility, and I wonder on whose behalf the minister made these allegations. Let him provide hard evidence and not publicly condemn a listed company which has served aviation well over many years. The age of scapegoating is over, and we [the aviation sector] are not happy with him at all. Like with the guy in tourism, we too have a message – do not mess with your private sector stakeholders unless you want to be challenged to resign, or else the demand is made for you to be replaced,” ranted a periodic contributor to this blog who is based at JNIA in Dar es Salaam.

Swissport in Tanzania has been turning profits and paying dividends for a prolonged period of time. It is a publicly-listed company at the Dar es Salaam stock exchange and part of Swissport’s global operations. The Government of Tanzania holds a 12 percent share in the company, while Hainan Traffic Administration Holding Co. of China is listed as owning 51 percent of Swissport Tanzania Limited.

Swissport operates about 280 airports in 48 countries around the world, and HNA Holdings, the parent corporation of Hainan Traffic Administration Holding Co., is a Fortune Global 500 company with over US$75 billion in global assets, and annual revenues between US$25 and 30 billion.

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