LESOTHO entrepreneur Sam Matekane has launched a new airline at Moshoeshoe I International Airport in Maseru.
Matekane is managing director of the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC). The new airline has two state-of-the-art aircrafts, an eight-passenger Hawker 700A jet and seven-seater Euro Copter 135 helicopter.
He paid about R40 million for the two planes last year.
More than 300 businessmen, celebrities and officials attended the launch to celebrate the rare achievement by one of Lesotho's sons.
The only privately owned airline in the Mountain Kingdom, Matekane Aviation will hire out aircraft to international and local clients for business and personal use.
"The main objective of the airline is to meet the travelling needs of companies, government officials and business partners," Matekane said.
"These will also be available for hire by local and international tourists interested in exploring our country.
"I'm proud and very happy that the MGC's aviation project is now fully operational.
"I can assure the Basotho that the aircraft will be available to them on first call."
Matekane said the airline venture came about two years ago after King Letsie III was stranded in Paris, France, due to a strike.
As a result of the industrial action by pilots the king could not make it home on schedule.
"I observed the situation and saw in it an idea whose time had come - the ownership of an airline.
"I'm delighted that the project has materialised," Matekane said.
He said the airline already had plans in the pipeline to enter into partnership ventures.
"The aircrafts are already contracted with a South African national airways at Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg, offering charter services.
The helicopter will also be utilised for transporting cargo," Matekane said.
He revealed that six Basotho youths were already undergoing training as pilots at a South Africa institution.
The airline is the latest addition to the Matekane's dynamic company, which now consists of six entities: plant hire; property development; farming; mining investment; road construction and transport.
Having been in existence since 1986, specialising in transport and plant business after Matekane took over in 1992, the company prospered.