Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Air traffic controllers down tools in Zimbabwe, chaos at RGM airport

By Nigel Pfunde

Travellers were left grounded Tuesday morning when all outbound flights were cancelled owing to a strike by air traffic controllers.

Robert Mugabe International Airport
Robert Mugabe International Airport

Zim Morning Post understands that only Kenya Airways and Rwandair left the terminal around 4 am Tuesday, while Air Zimbabwe and Air Link were cleared mid- morning.

One of the managers had to man the air traffic control tower.

The strike paralysed the smooth flow of operations at Robert Mugabe International Airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) has neglected to address workers’ grievances and the Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza refused to meet the workers after communication was made to him.

The Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) complained that they are underpaid and the staff members are no longer capacitated to report for duty posing a threat to air travellers’ safety.

In August, Air Navigation Director, Blessing Ngwarati ordered the withdrawal of transport facility that was conducting a door to door pick up of ATC staff leaving them stranded.

Robert Mugabe International Airport
Robert Mugabe International Airport

After this development, according to our sources the air space was left with inexperienced staff that had to work for 17 hours without relief.

The standard working period is 12 hours.

“Management had conducted a door to pick up of ATC staff to and from work after the ATC staff had indicated inability to commute to work due to the high cost of transport.

“On Thursday August 15 2019 hours before the planned demonstrations, one Blessing Ngwarati, Director for Air Navigation ordered the withdrawal of transport service leaving ATC staff stranded,” revealed our source.

“Zimbabwe airspace was left manned by a skeleton inexperienced and those manning have had to work for over 17 hrs or more without relief putting the flying public at risk,” added our source.

The management, acting Director General who is the substantive Human Resources and Administration Director, Margret Mantiziba and Ngwarai are said to have vowed not to consider issues of underpayment of wages.

“The issues of underpayment of wages has not been addressed since a court ruling of more than 10 years ago instructed CAAZ to address the issue.”

“The current acting Director General who is the substantive Human Resources and Administration Director Margret Mantiziba together with Director of Air Navigation Blessing Ngwarai have vowed never to address the issue,” added the source.

This publication has previously reported about the operational environment and surveillance system not being able to meet world’s best practice, making the skies not safe for flying public.

When reached for comment, CAAZ public relations executive Nunurai Ndawana could neither confirm nor deny the development and promised to release a statement.

“We will release a statement with accurate details in the next hour ,” he said before hanging up. Zim Morning Post