No new national airline on the horizon

Andrew Kathindi

Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, has ruled out the establishment of another airline after the liquidation of Air Namibia.

The pronouncement by the minister comes after a mass demonstration led by National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), which called for the reversal of Cabinet’s decision on the airline, and for the immediate removal of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) minister ended in failure after government reiterated its stance on the closure of Air Namibia. Jooste told Windhoek Observer, “At the moment, the answer is no. So of course, strategically in our normal planning, that’s where the Director of the Planning Commission comes in as well. If there are discussions, we reveal the strategic value for a new airline.”

“And if it fits into a country for us to achieve our development goals, then, of course we will be having such discussions, but at an opportune time. At the moment we are not discussing them.”

Finance Minister, Iipumbu Shiimi, echoed these sentiments in his parliamentary address on the liquidation of Air Namibia, stating that the airline had been hemorrhaging billions from government coffers due to constant bailouts.

“Some quarters of the society are accusing Government of closing Air Namibia deliberately for the growth of another airline. This information is totally misleading and devoid of any truth. The history of Air Namibia is well known and Government can no longer carry this burden given Air Namibia’s soaring debts.”

According to Jooste, the airline’s liabilities stand at over N$3 billion with N$981 million worth of assets. Over 600 jobs are set to be lost with the liquidation of the airline, however Shiimi stated that Government will commit to an ex-gratia payment to the value of 12 month’s salary for each employee.

“We will continue with consultations with the interim board and the management to work out detailed modalities of winding up the operations of the current Air Namibia and that includes the schedule of payments to the employees and the protection of the assets in the possession of the company,” Shiimi had said.

However, his comments come as lawyers of Anicent Baun, the liquidators representing Challenge Air, last week served Air Namibia with a writ of execution following the airline’s breach of a settlement agreement, in which the airline’s board had agreed to pay N$ 103 million by 18 February.

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