The recently-appointed new Minister of Transport in the Tanzanian government, Samwell Sitta, wasted no time to take aim at the ailing national airline Air Tanzania (ATCL) over accumulated debts amounting to tens of billions of Tanzania shillings.
The Minister was quoted to have used phrases like ‘negligence’ and ‘sabotage’ in his broadside against the management of the company, with those responsible for the massive losses long gone, either resigned or fired from their jobs. Past managers had ended the company paying for aircraft which hardly ever flew and engaged in deals which cost the company dearly, counting on continued bailouts from government. Minister Sitta was also quoted to have said, among other things, that potential investors shied away from the company in the past due to the massive losses ATCL had accumulated over time.
“It is good the Minister raised these issues immediately after taking office. Air Tanzania has swallowed tax money like there is no tomorrow. The problem is that the periodic bailouts with tax money tilt the market, because they can operate almost like profits do not matter. Even the present management has promised a lot and little has happened,” a regular aviation source from Dar es Salaam said when passing the Minister’s comments. He added: “The Minister should also acknowledge that the unions have played a bad part in past attempts to privatize or find a core investor. Debts and hardline unions are a recipe for airlines to fail in this day and age. Instead of investing more money in this bottomless pit, let them wind up ATCL and rather buy shares in Precision Air which is on the Dar stock exchange. That would make sense. They are financially ailing also but have a better chance to succeed.”