Air Namibia battle gets messy
By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
WINDHOEK – The political tug of war around Air Namibia’s board and the suspension of airline senior managers including the managing director continues, with union insiders claiming the union has evidence that puts into question the current acting managing director’s credentials.
Union insiders have misgivings about the acting MD’s supposed 28 years of experience.
The Air Namibia Board deflected much of the questions posed yesterday, some of which were on issues raised by the union.
But the board did say they never had discussions about sabotaging the airline with the aim of giving competitive advantage to foreign airlines and ultimately gain favour to have Air Namibia privatised.
The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) declined to comment on allegations regarding the competence of Rene Gsponer, the Swiss national appointed as acting managing director, referring to the statement made at this week’s Monday press conference, chaired by its president Connie Pandeni.
The union accused the board of intentionally delaying the renewal of the operating licence to advance the appointment of foreign people without following procedures.
Air Namibia Board spokesperson Tim Ekandjo yesterday declined to comment on accusations of the non-executive board meddling in the day-to-day operations of the airline, but said the board had no intention of taking over the functions of the airline or to frustrate the airline into privatisation.
“As a board we have never discussed this matter because we know it is not our mandate and I have simply no idea where the allegations come from, but we remain focused on what we need to do and will not be sidetracked by non-issues of this nature,” said Ekandjo
Amidst the thick and thin of the current debacle some quarters of the industry have begun to draw similarities – which New Era could not independently verify the validity of – with the 2002/2005 period when Air Namibia’s consultants tasked to develop a turnaround strategy attempted to privatise the airline through a consortium of board members, executive managers and a Swiss aviation consulting company, with 40 percent to foreign ownership shared with local companies, a proposal that was rejected by cabinet with the union’s backing.
However, Ekandjo said the “decision to privatise any parastatals sits entirely with the shareholder which is government,” adding: “We can only be judged on results not accusations, rumour-mongering and, or dirty tricks without solutions.”
Ekandjo again referred to this week’s Tuesday statement saying the newly appointed managers are “retired experts who have no intention iof staying in Namibia. They are simply coming to assist and empower our people since we have clearly stuggled in the operational area as can be seen by the current crisis we find ourselves in.”
He said the board is simply carrying out its mandate, which is to ensure the successful recertification process because this is a strategic matter which threatens the very existence of the airline, its employees and the country’s hard earned reputation.