Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has cited “advanced” pilot’s age as the reason for denying opposition chief Tundu Lissu’s helicopter flying rights on Thursday to campaign in Pwani region.
The authority was forced to issue a statement after Lissu’s Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) party stated that the authority had banned the presidential hopeful from using a chopper in his campaigns.
Chadema stated that the helicopter had been barred from taking off shortly after Lissu and his convoy had completed checking in at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).
In the statement, TCAA Director General Hamza Johari refuted the ban claims saying that State Aviation, which operates the chopper, was given bloc permit that expires on October 31, 2020, noting that however, the company was denied exemption request to use a pilot aged 65 which contravene Regulation 15 of the Civil Aviation (Personnel Licensing).
“Exemption was denied because it is against the law and would threaten the lives of passengers and that the feedback was issued on the same day of application, September 9. No TCCA official communicated to Chadema officials as claimed and no flight plan was submitted to TCAA,” said Johari.
Chadema’s chief election whip Aman Golugwa, however, alluded that the decision was politically biased.
“After entering into a contract with the aviation vendor, it was their responsibility to lodge for the licence and assign the pilot. But, surprisingly, we were told that the South African pilot, aged 55, was approaching retirement age, hence he wasn’t authorized to fly a presidential candidate,” he said.
Lissu and his running mate were expected to campaign in Bagamoyo, Chalinze, Mlandizi and Kibaha.
Following disruption of their program in the last minute, they were forced to use road transport to continue with the campaigns.
“We were forced to opt for road transport that enabled our candidate to address rallies in Kibaha and Bagamoyo while the two others in Chalinze and Mlandizi were addressed by parliamentary and
councillorship candidates,” added Golugwa.
Today, Lissu and his team are expected to hold rallies in constituencies located in Morogoro Region before proceeding to Iringa Region.
The opposition leader, who is expected to give President John Pombe Magufuli a run for his money in the October general elections, returned to Tanzania on July 27.
He had been living in Belgium and has undergone at least 20 surgeries after he survived an assassination attempt in September 2017.