Pretoria - Wonderbroom National Airport will be put up for sale after an investigation found that the private sector would obtain funding required to develop the facility far better than the current owner, City of Tshwane.
In addition, a process has been initiated to engage with interested airlines to introduce scheduled flights at the airport.
City of Tshwane spokesman Selby Bokaba said the investigation found that privatising the airport could turn it into a more productive contributor to the economy of the country’s capital.
Bokaba said the investigation showed that procurement processes of local government were contributing to legislative non-compliance risks, referring to fuel shortages that have plagued the airport for a long time.
“A situation is created where airport services are rendered at far higher prices than what the private sector through a negotiation process can achieve. This can have a negative influence on the feasibility of the facility,” he said.
Tshwane has already approved a road map to guide the process of selling the airport.
The metro will appoint a transaction adviser to kick-start the process.
“Once an adviser has been appointed, it will take 18 to 22 months to finalise all the required legislative processes applicable to a transaction of this nature and have the airport operations and management responsibility transferred to a successful bidder.”
Bokaba said the city had on several occasions in the past been approached by private companies interested in the airport.
They also asked about the possibility and processes to be followed with regards to acquiring the airport.
However, he said this would be done through a public bidding process.
Negotiation processes had already been initiated with interested scheduled flight operators to use the airport.
Bokaba said feasibility studies were under way to ensure that flights and tickets could be made available at an affordable price.
The moment feasibility was guaranteed, the roll-out to provide scheduled flights would take between six and seven months to complete.
Bokaba said Tshwane was awaiting further feedback from scheduled flight operators interested in using the airport.
Airlink has been mentioned in council reports as being interested in introducing scheduled flights to Cape Town as a first destination.
However, the airline’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.
Francois Bekker, DA spokesman for transport in Tshwane, said the opposition party supported the selling of the business entity of the airport and retention of the property.
Running an airport was not the core business of a municipality, Bekker said.
“The aviation industry is far too complex and specialised and Tshwane has proven over and over again that it was incapable of running the facility successfully.
“Experts from the industry are needed to run the airport. The solution is to sell the business component of the airport.
“But, this selling process must be transparent so that we get the best possible buyers – people who have proven experience in the aviation field. A tenders-for-pals scenario should be avoided at all costs.
“With everything in place, scheduled flights will be possible and this will unlock the economic potential of the airport. And then it will also be possible to obtain international status.
“In essence, make this a pocket of excellence and economic driver of note. At the moment it is running the risk of becoming just another Tshwane metro failure.”
A flight operator at Wonderboom told the Pretoria News that selling the airport would be the only way to save both operators and the facility.
He said the current management did not look after the tenants, who were paying exorbitant fees to use the airport.
“Fuel prices at Wonderboom must be the most expensive of all municipal airports in the country,” said the operator.
“Security guards are forever on strike and theft is rife at times. When you raise these issues, all you get is a politically motivated response.”
The operator said privatising the airport would be a step in the right direction.
“Look at Lanseria – that airport has grown in leaps and bounds since it was privatised,” he added. - Pretoria News