Dube TradePort chief executive Saxen van Coller

A new Durban-based cargo airline, Khuphuka Kings Airways, has suddenly appeared on the radar and has secured a deal with Dube TradePort to start scheduled cargo flights from King Shaka International Airport to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo from next month.

Dube TradePort made the announcement yesterday and said the airline was part of the Khuphuka Investment Holdings group, headed by Dr Musa Mdluli.

It said in a statement that the new route would include a stop-over in Ndola province, which was part of the copper-rich mining belt in Zambia. The airline would use three cargo aircraft, including two ILyushin 76 and one Antonov AN12, which have a cargo capacity of 46 and 20 tonnes, respectively.

Dube TradePort said Khuphuka Kings Airways would initially commence operations in the cargo field, but plans were in the pipeline to also introduce passenger aircraft to the route and later expand into Africa.

There is very little information on Khuphuka Investment Holdings and its chairman, Mdluli, who founded the company in 1998. An online search revealed only one of his trading companies, Khuphuka Tours, a tour operator and exhibitions business.

But, speaking to The Mercury yesterday, Mdluli said he was a medical doctor and had been involved in business for years.

“Khuphuka has interests in the oil and gas sector, medical supply industry and in tourism…This air cargo venture has been more than three years in the making and is an extension of our business interests. We are looking to export various types of cargo between the DRC and South Africa, including general merchandise, food and even mining equipment,” he said.

Saxen van Coller, chief executive of Dube TradePort, said the launch of the new cargo route would increase connectivity between Durban and central Africa, assisting in the generation of “economic efficiencies” for the local business community.

Since initially pitching the idea, Mdluli said the company had been inundated with requests from freight forwarders and their clients.

It is estimated that up to 85 percent of KwaZulu-Natal based companies, with goods destined for Africa, currently delivered their airfreight to Joburg by road for flights from OR Tambo International Airport.

Durban Chamber chief executive, Andrew Layman, said if the new cargo airline proved to be a viable venture, it was “good news” for Africa.

“Access to other African markets is a big issue for both local and international companies,” he said.