Jooste calls Sisa’s bluff

Andrew Kathindi

Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, has dismissed threats by Challenge Air representative, Lawyer Sisa Namandje, to seize assets of state-owned TransNamib, if government proceeds with the voluntary liquidation of Air Namibia.

According to Namandje the Arbitration Awards made on 6 August, 2008 and 4 August, 2011 in Europe, were jointly against Air Namibia and TransNamib.

Air Namibia was incorporated into TransNamib up until the late 1990s, which was around the time when the airline entered into the lease agreement with Challenge Air.

“I saw the letter that was circulated today. We discussed this with TransNamib some time ago already, and asked them to look into that and their response was that they are not concerned about any undue consequences from there, “said Jooste.

According to the Minister, the agreement between Air Namibia and Challenge Air was made at a time when the national airliner was still under TransNamib.

“But TransNamib was not a signatory to that, they were not a guarantor to that. But I did alert the chairperson of TransNamib this afternoon, again, asked them just to prepare themselves for a potential issue but according to their opinion for now they’re not worried.”

Challenge Air representative in court, Namandje, has written to the airline questioning the decision to voluntarily liquidate the company, and threatened to seize TransNamib’s assets should the airliner not meet its deadline for payment.

“Our client will further now start taking execution and enforcement steps against TransNamib Holdings Ltd, as you may recall that the Arbitration Awards on 6 August, 2008 and 4 August, 2011 in Europe were made against Air Namibia and TransNamib jointly and severally,” reads the letter from the lawyer.

“So, while taking steps to execute against Air Namibia, our client will at the same time now ignite execution steps against TransNamib should the Court Order not be complied with on or before 18 February 2021.”

Air Namibia owes €9,867,053 (N$182 million) in arrears, of which the previous board had agreed to settle EURO 4 million by 18 February.

Jooste said that the government is still studying the settlement agreement, but said government does not have money to that tune. Finance Minister, Iipumbu Shiimi, revealed that Marten Ashikoto, Director of Assets, Cash and Debt Management in the Ministry of Finance, and Tjiuee Kaura, a Director in the Ministry of Public Enterprises, were appointed to serve as interim board members, to oversee the airline’s liquidation process.

Businessperson, Hilda Basson-Namundjebo, lawyer Norman Tjombe and James Cumming had been previously approached, but the decision was later reversed.

“The names of the individuals that were circulating on social media this week were initially approached for their availability but after consultations between myself as Chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Treasury, and Honourable Jooste, it was agreed to appoint internal staff members from both the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Enterprises to serve as Interim Board Members,” said Shiimi.

Air Namibia’s assets currently stand at N$981 million while its liabilities are N$3 billion, which according to Jooste, excludes the cost of leases of the A330 aircraft or the cost of potential cancellation of certain agreements, in light of looming liquidation, which could escalate the cost of liabilities dramatically.

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