CCM Presidential candidate Dr John Magufuli yesterday defended his government's massive investment in the aviation industry, saying the move strategically aimed at boosting the country’s economy.
Soon after assuming presidency in 2015, Dr Magufuli embarked on an ambitious drive to revive the national airline, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL).
The past five years has witnessed the government purchase 11 new planes, and the incumbent president who is seeking reelection for his second term, says the move is worth it.
Addressing Kigoma residents at Lake Tanganyika Stadium, Dr Magufuli said eight planes have already been brought in the country while three are still under construction.
"We bought 11 aircraft using taxpayers' money, we did not take loan from anyone, so far eight aircraft are already in the country and they are operating, the remaining three are under construction and will be brought at the right time," he noted.
He hit out at politicians who have been accusing the government of purchasing new aircraft, saying the move would cause loss to the nation, saying they do not wish well the nation and Tanzanians at large.
"We must avoid such kind of politicians, those are 'political conmen'" he said.
Dr Magufuli said most politicians who are accusing the government of buying aircraft have been seen several times boarding Air Tanzania Company (ATCL) flights.
"The same people who do not support the revival of ATCL are always flying with our planes, this means they understand the importance of having an operational national carrier but they just decide to tarnish the government image, you must ignore them," he noted.
Dr Magufuli reacted to the matter after one of wananchi lifted a poster showing a picture of an outspoken opposition politician and former Member of Parliament, Zitto Kabwe, disembarking from one of ATCL aircraft.
The bold measures taken by the fifth-phase government has helped reform the once stuttering ATCL.
The company has so far employed 404 as permanent staff.
The rejuvenated ATCL now offers indirect employment through ground handling companies, in-flight services, marketing/promotion, Hotels, travel agents, cargo agents, exporters/importers.
The revival of the company has also led to the hiring of more pilots, from 11 to 74. The number of aircraft engineers has risen from 27 to 127, and cabin crew have increased from 31 to 125.
Moreover, the number of passengers has increased from 5,600 per month to 65,000 per month while the revenues have increased from 2.5bn/- to 15bn/- per month.
The taxes have increased from 103m/- to 1.25bn/- while the total government charges for flight hiring is more than 34bn/-.
The market share has grown from 2.5 to 75 per cent. According to the CCM's 2020-2025 election manifesto, the government of CCM, if re-elected in the October polls, will purchase another five aircraft.
"In the coming five years at least five aircraft including one cargo flight will be bought purposely to strengthen the sector and boost international businesses," reads part of the manifesto.
The manifesto states that the move will create a favourable environment for an increase in the number of tourists to five million in the coming five years.
Addressing a campaign rally at CCM Kirumba Stadium in Mwanza recently Dr Magufuli said: "We plan to buy five new aircrafts - two intercontinental planes, two for regional routes and a cargo plane to boost business related to horticulture products, frozen meat, fish fillet, seafood and other perishables."
In his five years' administration, President Magufuli's government purchased two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two Airbus A-220-300 and four Bombardiers.
The purchase of the aircrafts in the next five years will boost ATCL operations since it will have a total of 16 aircraft, thus conquering domestic, regional and international markets.