Margate Airport delay

2011-10-31 00:00

NEGOTIATIONS between the Hibiscus Coast Municipality and SA Express for a new service between Margate and O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg seem to have struck an unexpected hitch.

This became evident during a meeting of the Hibiscus Coast municipal council last week when it was revealed that there has not yet been a response from the airline regarding a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the parties.

The news comes as a disappointment to councillors, because the negotiations had been going smoothly through its various stages over the last six months.

Municipal manager Sbu Mkhize, who has been personally involved in the negotiations, said the situation is obviously a cause for concern.

Mkhize said the matter is a very complex one, and although he cannot divulge any details he can understand why SA Express has not yet agreed to a memorandum of understanding.

“Despite the current hitch, the negotiations are still very much alive although, as a precautionary measure, we will have to start looking at other options with other carriers.

“We remain fully committed to establishing a service to Oliver Tambo airport, because this is in the interest of our ratepayers.”

During the council meeting Deputy Mayor Johnny de Wet expressed his disappointment and concern that on the eve of the festive season there is no significant indication that regular flights will resume in time, as was originally hoped.

“We are disappointed. By this time we should have had something going.”

He was reacting to a progress report by the HCM acting economic development director, Siyabonga Zama, who said that the draft MOU is still with the chief executive of SA Express.

He said other potential airport operators have been engaged since the investment conference earlier this year.

“All information required by the Civil Aviation Authority has been submitted and we are awaiting the outcome of inspections regarding the upgrade of the airport.”

It was agreed at the Margate airport task team meeting that visits to Ulundi, Richards Bay, Pietermaritzburg and George airports will be undertaken as part of an SA Express recommendation to learn from operational and financing models.

Zama said a meeting has been held with the KZN Treasury to kick-start the Margate airport strategy by soliciting funds.

Council speaker Ronnie Nair said that although SA Express had been engaged earlier in the year, the process seems to have regressed. “It looks as if the council has given up on SA Express, and we need to engage other potential airlines.”

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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