Malawi National Council of Sports has spent about K168 million in chartering flights for Team Malawi to participate on the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Games underway in Maseru, Lesotho.
A contingent of 112 comprising 84 athletes and 28 officials travelled in two groups using Lesotho’s Mohlahaula Airlines.
The first group left the country for the Lesotho capital on Tuesday while the last left the following day through Chileka International Airport in Blantyre.
Sports Council Public Relations and Communications Officer Edgar Mtulumbwa said flying the entire team on one plane was logistically impossible using regular commercial flights.
“This would have meant sending the team in bits from Blantyre as well as Johannesburg. Currently, only Malawian Airlines is flying between Malawi and South Africa and flights from Johannesburg to Maseru are typically undertaken by small aircraft,” Mtulumbwa said.
He said travelling to Lesotho by road from South Africa would not have been possible as buses entering Lesotho were limited due to Covid restrictions.
“The other viable alternative was to fly into Johannesburg and then drive to Maseru, typically a five-to-six-hour journey. Travelling to Lesotho by bus also automatically meant that more money was needed to buy food during the trip,” Mtulumbwa said.
He said their intentions to use Malawian Airlines for the trip failed due to technical challenges.
Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said the move was justifiable.
“This is the best Sports Council could have done considering that anyone traveling to Lesotho passes through Johannesburg for connecting flights, which are mostly small planes which cannot accommodate the entire Malawi team. Again, with the Covid pandemic, a chartered plane is the safest way to travel,” Kaudza-Masina said.
Malawi is competing in several sporting codes such as football, netball, tennis, taekwondo, judo, boxing, swimming and athletics.
Youth and Sports Minister Ulemu Msungama is leading Team Malawi and will attend the Council of Ministers Meeting during the Games.
Malawi will host the next edition of the Games and will receive a torch symbolizing the beginning of a countdown to the event which is set for December next year.