Namibia: Govt Washes Hands of Air Namibia Woes

Minister of public enterprises Leon Jooste this week washed his hands of the financially troubled Air Namibia's failure to meet international civil aviation industry guidelines.

Jooste said the airline needs to find an internal solution to deal with their failure to meet international civil aviation security guidelines.

Failure to meet the laid-down security guidelines was one of the reasons that resulted in the airline's licence being suspended this week by the Transport Commission of Namibia.

However, a High Court order overturned the suspension and gave the state-owned entity a lifeline.

"Safeguarding its flight safety regulations is the responsibility of the airline, not that of the shareholder. The two regulators (the Transport Commission of Namibia and the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority) have the mandate to oversee and ensure compliance to international standards," Jooste said.

"We are busy with a process where various stakeholders are engaged and will be in a position to pronounce ourselves on the way forward as soon as this process is concluded," he said.

The government is investigating realignment options for Air Namibia of which the balance sheet, minister of finance and chairperson of the Cabinet committee on budget and finance, Ipumbu Shiimi, last week said needed N$7 billion to be feasible and allow the airline to operate normally.

Among other avenues considered by the government is reducing the airline's staff complement.

The commission in a detailed communication sent to Air Namibia's acting managing director, Elia Erastus, by chairperson Eldorette Harmse on Monday, cited the national carrier's financial status and safety concerns, among others.

In terms of safety, the commission made reference to Air Namibia failing an International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).

"Taking all factors stated above into consideration and the requirements of the Air Services Act, namely that an operator must be financially able to provide a safe, satisfactory and reliable air service, the commission has resolved to suspend Air Namibia's Schedules Air Services Licence No 00012 again with effect from 23h59 on Wednesday, 8 July 2020," Harmse said in the letter.

In a statement yesterday, the airline's acting chief executive officer referenced the High Court order that overturned the decision to suspend Air Namibia's Air Service Licence on Wednesday evening.

"In an application before the Honourable Justice Tommasi, the respondents were interdicted from implementing or taking any further action regarding the suspension of the Air Namibia licences pending a hearing of the matter on 3 August 2020," Erastus said.

He said the safety of passengers and employees remain at the heart of the airline's operations, and Air Namibia ensures that all its aircraft and ground support equipment are serviced and maintained regularly according to the manufacturer's standards.

"Air Namibia has maintained an impeccable and unblemished safety record since inception," he said.

Responding to questions on safety, Air Namibia's spokesperson Paul Nakawa yesterday said the airline is IOSA certified and all safety concerns raised during the audit have been rectified - therefore the IOSA certificate was renewed until September 2021.

Despite a brief court victory, the commission said its concerns, which gave rise to the suspension decision, remain.

"The court made the order without affording the commission the opportunity to answer Air Namibia's allegations. The commission will in due course file its answers to the court outlining the reasons and basis of its decision," the commission said.

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