Air Namibia hangs onto Zim assets by fingernails

WINDHOEK, Air Namibia has launched an urgent Supreme Court appeal in Zimbabwe to suspend the order to have its aircraft and assets in that country attached by a family that is suing over claims of ill treatment at the hands of the Namibian national airline.

The appeal, Air Namibia spokesperson Paul Nakawa told New Era yesterday, automatically suspends the order to attach issued by the High Court until a verdict is ruled on that appeal.

Therefore, Air Namibia continues to transport passengers and cargo to and from Zimbabwe. Our operation to Harare and Victoria Falls is on-going as per our published flight schedule, he said.

A Zimbabwean family that was travelling aboard Air Namibia to Turkey, on Turkish visas, sued Air Namibia for being not allowed to board the plane to Frankfurt.

The family claims that by being denied permission to board the plane to Frankfurt, they were subject to days of being at the airport with no accommodation and with no alternative travel arrangements made for it.

Air Namibia has however denied the claims by the Zimbabwean family, saying that the airline acted within the prescribed standard norms of Airline's and Immigration Authorities to refuse passengers access to an aircraft in circumstances they suspect the passenger does not meet the requisite criteria since a ticket does not guarantee automatic passage.

Although the Zimbabwean family says it had valid visas to Turkey, issued by Turkish consulate in Harare, Air Namibia says it received instructions from the German immigration officials in Pretoria not to allow the passengers onto the flight.

Nakawa says that the latest news of the family getting a high court order to attach Air Namibia's equipment in Zimbabwe comes months after the airline had filed a notice of opposition to the claims and to which the family had not responded for three months.

After more than three months with the claimants not having filed any answering affidavits, Air Namibia lawyers on 22 June filed an application to have their case dismissed. The family was served with the papers on 27 June. They were supposed to respond within 10 days, says Nakawa.

He says following the Supreme Court appeal, Air Namibia would now also lodge an urgent application for the stay of execution.

The High Court issued the latest order to attach items, according to Nakawa, on 27 June, sitting in chambers and without calling either of the parties, the court issued an order authorising the attachment of the airline assets to found jurisdiction.

Air Namibia only became aware of the court order by reading it in the media on 13 July, said Nakawa, adding that they found that the airline's pleadings were removed from the court file.

Air Namibia said on 21 March this year it filed its response with the courts in Zimbabwe that the family did not meet satisfactory immigration requirements for them to proceed with their travel and that the German immigration officials indicated they not be allowed to board the Air Namibia flight to Frankfurt.

Air Namibia does not fly to Turkey.

Nakawa also says that Air Namibia indicated that the family's freedom of movement was not interfered with as claimed, as the airline officials are not vested with arresting powers and that once denied entry, claimants were free to return to their country of origin.

Once refused entry, the airline had no mandate to cater for their welfare, he said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia