Menzies Aviation’s endless litigation is sabotaging Namibia’s economy

Niël Terblanché

Menzies Aviation Namibia has filed yet another notice of motion with the Namibian High Court in which application the company intends to seek an order that would allow them more time to operate as the ground handling service provider at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).

This comes after High Court Judge Hannelie Prinsloo on Friday dismissed another application where the British-owned company appealed against its eviction from the Hosea Kutako International Airport on 19 August 2023. The matter was dismissed with costs and removed the matter from the roll.

The judge found that Menzies had no legal right to insist on continuing to provide ground handling services at the airport and that the company had no legal right to further occupy any premises of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) at the airport.

The judge also found that the NAC was fully entitled to enforce the extent of a High Court judgement handed down in June 2022 and the Supreme Court Judgement handed down in June this year which led to the eventual eviction of Menzies from the premises earlier this month.

Prominent legal practitioner, Norman Tjombe, said the current litigation standoff by Menzies against the NAC and Paragon Aviation Services over an endless array of legal technicalities is amounting to economic sabotage, not only against the Namibia Airports Company but against the country as a whole.

“As a result, several airlines making use of Namibia’s Hosea Kutako International Airport, have suspended not only the movement of their respective cargo in and out of Namibia, but also their flights, only for it to be reinstated a few hours or a day later,” he opined.

Tjombe said that it is inconceivable that the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority, in its mandate of regulating and controlling safety and security of all aspects of civil aviation, including ground handling services at Namibia’s premier international airport, would not have ensured that all regulatory requirements are met before a new contracting party would take over the ground handling on behalf of the NAC.

“The embargo of flights and cargo, only to uplift it again, is surely aimed at creating this false image that Namibia is an unsafe country with a lack of law and order. This will hurt Namibia in the immediate and long term,” he said.

According to Tjombe, the time has arrived for the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Works and Transport must provide the necessary leadership and decisively deal with the matter and provide a solid sense of certainty to the travelling community.

Another prominent Namibian legal mind, advocate Richard Metcalfe decried endless litigation against the NAC and Paragon.

“Unfortunately, our politicians have set the tone for ignoring or circumventing Supreme Court rulings. Now foreign corporates use the same low-class tactics to show offensive contempt for our democracy and the Namibian Constitution,” he said.

According to Metcalfe, it is absolutely essential that the decisions of the Supreme Court and High Court are abided by.

“Even when parties do not like those decisions. Namibia is a democracy, not a country subjected to mob rule or political dictate,” he said.

Despite the ruling by the Namibian High Court effectively ordering Menzies to finally vacate the premises of the NAC on Friday, the foreign company has still not unlocked its Air Cargo warehouse.

According to NAC spokesperson Dan Kamati, the process to get the cargo stuck in the locked warehouse is still continuing.

“We will continue to engage the relevant stakeholders to resolve the situation as soon as possible,” he said.

NAC Chief Executive Officer Bisey /Uira said that Friday’s judgment reaffirmed that Menzies’ eviction from HKIA was lawful, as it was authorised by the High Court and Supreme Court rulings.

“As a direct consequence of this judgment, Paragon Aviation Services will continue to provide legitimate ground handling services at the HKIA. This decision aligns with the Supreme Court’s finding that Menzies had unlawfully remained at the airport for nearly a year, despite Paragon being awarded the right by NAC to provide these services,” /Uirab said.

According to /Uirab the rule of law prevailed.

/Uirab urged all stakeholders to continue their cooperation with PAS in the provision of ground handling services at the HKIA.

“The court’s decision has definitively resolved the long-standing dispute, ensuring the airport’s smooth and lawful operation moving forward and it is a significant step towards restoring order and legality at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, bringing an end to a complex legal battle that has spanned several years,” he said.

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