Menzies stoops to a new low…blocks access to air cargo warehouse at HKIA

Niël Terblanché

The fear of even more corporate court games in the swamp of legal technicalities created by repeatedly approaching the High Court of Namibia with urgent applications to stay on as the entity responsible for ground handling services at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) by Menzies Aviation Namibia, has now resulted in a potentially deadly situation.

While being evicted from the premises of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC), Menzies and certain representative of freight forwarding companies locked up the air cargo warehouse at the airport and has since last Saturday, refused to hand responsibilities and the keys to the cargo handling facility over to Paragon Aviation Services while citing certification issues which has since proven to have no merit.

In the meantime, Namibians in need of urgent medication are left to fend for themselves while businesses that rely entirely on the continuous flow of goods through the air cargo warehouse at the HKIA face financial ruin. Harald Schmidt, the Secretary General of the Namibia Logistics Association, in a letter to the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said members need clarity about the correct certification to provide cargo handling services and if the cargo warehouse and screening machinery of Paragon Aviation Services has been audited before the eviction of Menzies.

Schmidt also wanted to know if the NAC informed the NCAA about the possible eviction of Menzies from the airport premises before it occurred.

When asked why no direct contact was established with the principal officers of Paragon Aviation Services to view the necessary certification documents despite several public invitations to do so by the company, Schmidt said he was unable to reach either Desmond Amunyela or Lazarus Jacobs on their phones.

No records of the purported calls or text messages could, however, be traced.

When informed that the NAC was unable to trace the necessary Menzies personnel to unlock the cargo warehouse and to properly hand it over to Paragon Aviation Services despite letters of request being sent to the legal representatives of the entities involved, he asked: “Why don’t the NAC use a grinder to open the warehouse and get the goods flowing again?”

In what appears to be part of a campaign that aims to discredit Paragon, the Namibia Logistics Association distributed posters questioning the certification of Paragon which has left many industry players questioning the real motives of the association.

The NAC informed stakeholders that their lawyers indicated that upon receipt of details of the Menzies employee’s whereabouts, they will immediately arrange with the Deputy Sheriff, Namibian Police, Namibia Revenue Agency as well as Namibia Protection Services to facilitate the handover of the relevant cargo to PAS in order for them to attend to the matter as the authorized ground handler at the HKIA

“Kindly take note that Menzies’ lawyers did not respond to our lawyers’ request in this regard, and we are thus not responsible for the current situation in respect of the relevant cargo as the solution that we devised cannot be implemented without Menzies’ handover which is currently not forthcoming,” the notice reads.

Using a grinder to open the air cargo warehouse to ensure the expedient flow of vital goods would have resulted in yet another High Court motion and even criminal charges.

All this because Menzies chose to ignore a Supreme Court order, and the rule of law that constitutes Namibia, that effectively ended their ground handling tender with the NAC more than a year after the contract had already expired.

Sisa Namandje, Paragon’s legal representative, during a recent media briefing, stated the situation where an entity allocates to itself the right to ignore court orders in Namibia can longer be tolerated.

“An independent Namibia was established as a sovereign, secular, democratic and unitary State founded on the rule of law. A private entity is not above the law and such behaviour can no longer be tolerated and must be addressed urgently,” Namandje said.

He added that Paragon would not hesitate to protect its rights in whatever way it could.

“This is a country run by the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. A private entity cannot pretend to run the country. This audacity and arrogance must die,” Namandje said.

Paragon Investment Holdings co-founder, Lazarus Jacobs, has vehemently dismissed allegations of insufficient capacity to execute ground handling services at the HKIA

Jacobs made it clear to all stakeholders and the public that PAS is fully licensed by the relevant authorities to manage ground handling services. He added that all airlines using the HKIA must be certified by the NCAA and that the same rules apply to all ground handlers.

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