Another victory for Paragon and NAC against Menzies Aviation in the Supreme Court

Niël Terblanché

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court of Namibia dismissed an appeal by Menzies Aviation Namibia concerning the ground handling services contract at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).

The decision by a panel of three Supreme Court Justices provides another victory for Paragon Aviation Services in the protracted legal battle over the contract to provide ground handling services at Namibia’s main international airport.

The dispute began in August 2021 when the Namibia Airports Company Limited (NAC) invited bids for ground handling services at HKIA.

The contract was awarded to Paragon Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd in a joint venture with Ethiopian Airlines on December 13, 2021.

Menzies Aviation, unsuccessful in their bid, appealed the decision to the Review Panel, which upheld the award to Paragon.

This initiated a series of legal actions that have spanned more than two years.

Menzies’ initial legal efforts included a counter-application to prevent NAC from handing over the ground handling operations to Paragon and an attempt to foil an eviction application by NAC.

The Namibian High Court ruled in favour of NAC, stating that Menzies’ contract would end on 30 June 2022 and that they must vacate the premises or face eviction by the Deputy Sheriff.

Subsequent to this, Menzies sought an interim interdict, which the High Court dismissed on 23 May 2023.

An appeal against this decision was also dismissed by the Supreme Court on 9 June 2023.

The current appeal pertained to the dismissal of Menzies’ application for interdictory relief pending the finalisation of the review application.

Central to the Supreme Court’s deliberation was the NAC’s condonation application for late filing of its notice to oppose the appeal and its ‘Special Power of Attorney’.

The court found that the NAC board resolution from 30 June 2022, authorised Bisey /Uirab, the company’s chief executive officer to appoint legal practitioners, thus granting the condonation application.

Additionally, the panel of Supreme Court justices addressed whether Menzies delayed unduly in instituting its application for interdictory relief and whether they had a prima facie right to continue as the ground handler during the review process.

The justices determined that the delay in interim interdicts should be measured against the promptitude of pursuing final relief, not just the timeline for interim relief.

The three justices held that a seamless takeover from Menzies could be facilitated at any time, dismissing the argument of undue delay.

The Court also ruled that the irregularities in the award of the bid to Paragon, claimed by Menzies, did not suffice to grant the relief sought.

“Menzies failed to establish that the bid would have been awarded to them had the process been conducted fairly and free of irregularities,” the justices said while delivering their judgment.

In this regard, the panel of Supreme Court justices dismissed the appeal with costs, reaffirming the decisions of the lower courts.

This ruling effectively ends Menzies’ legal efforts to reclaim the ground handling services contract at HKIA.

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