Airnam On Auto-Pilot

AIR Namibia troubles are threatening to bring the national airliner to its knees after the suspension of the managing director and another executive member on Monday.

The managing director, Theo Namases, and general manager for airport services, Nokokure Katjiuongua were suspended on Monday evening, while the general manager for technical and operational services, Jonas Sheelongo, has been on suspension for about seven months.

Sheelongo was allegedly suspended after he questioned the creation of the position of chief operations officer and the appointment of Rene Gsponer into that position. Gsponer is the acting managing director.

The latest suspensions confirm the strained relations between the Air Namibia board of directors and the company’s management.

While the national airliner is embroiled in a dogfight, it is also facing the suspension of its air operators certificate, which could bring its operations to a standstill.

This comes after the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA), which regulates Air Namibia, refused to renew its air operators certificate.

The DCA on Monday gave the airliner two weeks to comply with its standards and regulations.

The Namibian understand that the stand-off between the DCA and Air Namibia started when the airline refused to concede to demands to participate in a re-certification process. The company feels that the re-certification is only imposed on new airlines or one that was grounded by the authorities.

The DCA is allegedly claiming that the re-certification process was necessitated by new standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which all airline operators – including government’s air transport division – are required to comply with.

DCA’s head Angeline Simana-Paulo yesterday refused to comment, saying that theirs is an air safety regulator and operate within the regulations set by ICAO. She said there are no intentions to ground Air Namibia but that international standards need to be complied with.

Sources also said that ICAO was going to conduct an audit on the DCA next month, to confirm the safety of civil aviation in Namibia. The audit is seen by some as the reason why the DCA has been harsh on Air Namibia.

The DCA’s decision not to renew Air Namibia’s air operators certificate is one of the reasons, sources said, for Namases and Katjiuongua’s suspensions. The second reason was allegedly based on the findings of a forensic investigation commissioned by the board.

Namases said she was not allowed to speak to the media, while Katjiuongua confirmed that his suspension was based on the two reasons, but said that his department has little or no involvement in the process of the re-certification. His allies at the company, however, said that he was being targeted by the board because he was vocal and questioned the legality of the re-certification process, hence making him an enemy to the board.

Sources who came to Katjiuongua’s defence added that it was strange that he was a subject of the forensic audit, since it was aimed at covering events which occurred before he arrived at the company two years ago.

Sources at the company have also pointed out that the company has been relatively well run over the last year and accused the board of not acting in the interest of the company.

Media reports have also pointed towards Air Namibia board chairperson Harald Schmidt as undermining the management and unilaterally making decisions as well as sidelining Namases. Detailed questions sent to the chairperson of Air Namibia board’s human resources committee, Tim Ekandjo, had not been responded to at the time of going to print. The company informed the media that Ekandjo will be the spokesperson for the company on the matter, after Ekandjo issued a statement confirming the suspensions.

Source : The Namibian