AT least three airlines from different countries have already showed interest to start operating at the yet to be opened Sikhuphe International Airport.
The Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) and owners of the airlines are in constant discussions with a view of signing agreements with the airlines to start operating in the country as soon as Sikhuphe comes into operation.
SWACAA Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director Sabelo Dlamini said he was not in a position to disclose the names of the airlines and the countries where they came from pending the signing of the agreements.
He was confident, however, that the deals would be signed soon as only a few details were being discussed with the countries involved.
He assured the nation that the airlines would ready to operate from Sikhuphe as soon as the airport opens.
Dlamini stated that they were still in talks with more countries in an exercise to lure them to have their planes at Sikhuphe Airport but the challenge was that it takes a long time for airline operators to prepare for such a process.
“Normally, airline operators need about three years to prepare for such an exercise and we are nursing hopes that those we have approached will consider our proposals. What I can safely say is that we have three potential airlines ready to operate from the airport,” he said.
Asked when the airport would start operating, the SWACAA director said he was not in a position to reveal the official date.
Dlamini said this was because the issue and setting of the dates of the operation of the airport lied with government.
He said SWACAA was a government parastatal which has a clear mandate thus they would not comment about when the airport would be ready.
SWACAA, Nedbank meet FESBC on business opportunities
SWACAA and Nedbank Swaziland yesterday met business people under the Federation of the Swazi Business Community (FESBC).
The meeting, held at the George Hotel in Manzini, was attended by about 20 businesspeople.
SWACAA informed the business- people about business opportunities that would be available once Sikhuphe International Airport starts operating on a date yet to be confirmed.
FESBC Vice-President Hezekiel Mabuza explained that they decided to call the meeting to give the business people networks on available businesses in the country.
He explained that like in all other establishments they looked at the fact that Sikhuphe International Airport was near completion and thought of business opportunities that would be available.
“We are aware that Sikhuphe airport is almost 90% complete and as business people we want to have the highest number of businesses compared to the past whereby most businesses were owned by foreigners.
“We are hopeful that business people would take the opportunities that would be availed by the opening of the airport. We are impressed with the presentations by Sikhuphe officers,” he said.
SWACAA Director Sabelo Dlamini explained that business opportunities were mainly available at the Terminal Building, which is a double storery.
“We will be very happy to have Swazis operating almost all the businesses at the airport because this building belongs to them so they have to benefit from it,” he said.
Below are details of what the two floors entail:
Ground Floor-retail space
n Car rentals
n Coffee shop
n Tour operator offices
n Advertising space
n Staff restaurant
2nd Floor Retail space
n Information Desk/Destination stand
n Advertising space
n Business lounge operation
n Duty free shops
n Massage parlour
Airport – SWACAA director
OFFCIALS from SWACAA say now is not the time for the nation to question whether Sikhuphe will benefit the country or not because it is too late.
They said even though they could not say much about the airport but Swazis must know that it was already here and Swazi money has been spent on the project and all that they (Swazis) have to do was make the airport work.
Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director Sabelo Dlamini said Swazis owed the operation of the airport to the future and the young children of the country who would one day ask if their parents really meant it when they said Swaziland had only one airport; Matsapha International Airport.
This was after FESBC CEO Titus Thwala had asked if the country really needed Sikhuphe airport and that he had observed that the construction of the airport had contributed immensely to the economic decline of the country, adding that he feared that its existence would sink the country, economically, further down.
Dlamini said now that the airport was near completion all that they expected from Swazis, mainly business people, was to come together and work on making the airport a success for the country. “In some countries people do not stop thinking about the future no matter what the challenges they are facing.
We must all view the airport as something that will bring change in the country in the near future and ignore the effects its construction brought because it (airport) is now here and debating on whether we needed it or not will not help us in any way,” he said.
Thwala had also asked SWACAA to convince them as businesspeople and the entire Swazi nation that the airport was a viable project but Dlamini asked not to dwell much on that, saying only government had the right to discuss those issues at length.
SWACAA dreams of huge
market at Lonhlupheko
SWACAA dreams of a traffic circle at Lonhlupheko and a huge national market to benefit residents as part of the development that will come with the operation of Sikhuphe International Airport.
SWACAA Transport Economist Deris Hlophe said apart from the market they also expected hotels and shops to be constructed at the area and be operated by Swazis.
He said such development would help ease the traffic congestion in Manzini as businesspeople from Mozambique and South Africa entering through Mananga and Mhlumeni would have no need to go to Manzini but buy everything they wanted from the area.
“Having such building will not boost tourism only but even the economy in that tourists would choose visiting the country than neighbouring countries after all it will be next to the airport. I would also like to plead with business people to consider reviving steam engine trains to service the tourist and we have noted that most of them enjoy riding on the old mode of transport,” he said.
Hlophe added that they were also looking forward to the construction of the Swazi City earmarked to be constructed at Mhlaleni but would be happy to have it constructed at Sikhuphe instead of Matsapha.
He said the Swazi City and maybe a Mpaka Logistics Hub would also benefit the country in that people landing at Sikhuphe would do their shopping in the Lubombo region than going to Manzini.