Revisited Air Malawi can fly
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, let’s set the record straight first: In our last week’s entry, we should have indicated that Dr. David Livingstone’s heart was buried at Chithambo Village, north-east of Zambia, while the Ujiji Town west of Tanzania was where he met another historic character, journalist-cum-explorer Henry Morton Stanley.
It was here where Stanley made the most famous historic quote: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, the point we were illustrating is that the Scottish explorer’s spirit is still in Africa, where he spent the prime time of his life. He loved the continent, its people, and its vast untapped countries.
Which brings us to Malawi of today; where, we argue, some people behave as if they were foreigners, complete strangers that are willing to sell or ignore anything Malawian for a mere bowl of broth. Kuba. Katangale. Deals. Unfulfilled contracts, etc.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, what comes to mind is the country’s ailing airline, one of the few survivors in the Sadc region and most of Africa. There is definitely something that explains Air Malawi’s survival till this day when everybody else has folded their wings or gone into some form of imperialistic partnerships.
Before we get into this story, which sounds tired, let us declare interest. One, we feel nostalgic for an Air Malawi that used to fly us all the way to London in those days, in the historic, gigantic VC 10 aircraft. We cry for the BAC 1-11 aircraft that used to fly you to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s country and beyond.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, we are talking of an airline that used to house national beauty in its hostesses, osakhala za masiku anozi, zolembana pachibale, where beauty, elegance, glamour, intelligence or life’s freshness and exuberance is not part of the selection process.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, we are talking of an airline that had normal, succulent, fresh and tasty food, not zinyalala za masangweji.
And the old man, Kamuzu, ensured that Air Malawi truly and effectively flew and marketed our aspirations and brand as Malawians.
Today, his spirit at the Capital City mausoleum or Livingstone’s heart may be bleeding—seeing the national airline being ridiculed, left to bleed to death, while other ‘hawks’ are in the wings, ready to buy, directly or through proxy, the same company that is said to be hopeless.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, for those who watch the air travel industry in the region (pronounced ‘rijin’ by Zimbabweans), one thing is clear: There are volumes and business from Malawi. The regional or international airlines that fly in and out of Malawi are oftentimes full.
Even ‘ailing’ Air Malawi itself, as it flies on leased aircraft, is most times on break even and above numbers.
For Acheemwa JB, who flew the airline not long ago to show that our airline is real and needs support, there is need to go beyond the political antic. Get anybody who uses Malawi’s tax to fly Air Malawi. That is how great airlines were built. Like Rome, these gigantic airlines were not built in a day.
In fact, the old man of Kasungu had an Air Malawi office housed right in one of the Capital Hill buildings to ensure that all civil servants used the national airline and that payments were facilitated.
All that, over the years, has flown away; partly due to negligence, abuse of the facility, wrong recruitments, interference or dwindling investment in the company. Yet, as we have said above, the airline has potential business.
This is why the other hawks are trailing at a safe distance, ready to snap off the company at any possible opportunity.
Our proposal for a way forward is as follows: Bail out the airline. No need to apologise for that option. Capitalistic Americans do that often, even for their scandalous corporate sector.
If Lilongwe can’t afford the move (which we doubt), give the airline to Malawians, owners of the company. Forget about the paperwork and the messy requirements of the Stock Exchange; ask each one of us to contribute, say K1 000 each. Out of the 14 million-plus citizens, we can all raise about K14 billion to allow the airline pay its debts, buy one or two suitable crafts and continue flying our dreams—as a going concern.
We will, as a matter of urgency, recruit the right CEO and senior staff, not tired, past-date-of-sale characters that have no idea what making money is all about. We will choose a board and ensure it has business and corporate governance oversight on the carefully selected executive management team.
That, esteemed Raw Stuffers, is our submission.