Swakopmund regains control of airportBy: ADAM HARTMAN and WERNER MENGES
THE Swakopmund Municipality’s main objective for its airport is to upgrade it to a level matching the town’s high standards of service provision and management, Swakopmund CEO Eckart Demasius said this week.
Demasius made the comment on Tuesday, in light of the municipality finally regaining control of the airport at the coastal town after it won an appeal case in the Supreme Court on Monday.
The court dismissed an appeal by Swakopmund Airfield CC, the close corporation of businessman Brian Roos that had been leasing the airport from the municipality since December 1999, against a High Court judgement through which the close corporation was ordered to vacate the airport in March last year.
Judges of Appeal Gerhard Maritz and Sylvester Mainga, joined by Acting Judge of Appeal Johan Strydom, dismissed the close corporation’s appeal and ordered it to pay the municipality’s legal costs immediately after hearing arguments on the appeal. Reasons for the court’s decision are to be handed down later.
Besides having to pay the legal costs, Swakopmund Airfield may also have to pay back all the landing fees it had collected since the contract was terminated in 2009, according to Demasius.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done, and we will have to sit with the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation), the pilots, operators and hangar owners as to what is expected and how to get the airport up to standard,” said Demasius.
The first priority is to get the airport’s operational safety licence from the DCA after it was withdrawn due to the poor and unsafe condition of the main landing strip, resulting in the closure of the airport.
Demasius said there was about N$750 000 available to fix and resurface the main landing strip for now. The fuel storage area will also have to be relocated, according to him. These are important aspects in ensuring the reopening of the airport.
“There are a list of problems and a list of priorities, but we have to sit down with all the stakeholders to plan the way forward. There have been many problems since the agreement came to an end,” he said.
Swakopmund Airfield CC was claiming that the agreement in terms of which it had been leasing the airport from the municipality had been extended to the end of August 2015.
The municipality decided to terminate the lease agreement at the end of August 2009. The lease period would in any event have come to an end at the end of October 2009, was its view.
While Swakopmund Airfield CC was claiming that the lease had been extended, the local authority denied that an agreement extending the lease had ever been signed.
It tried, but failed, to get an urgent court order to evict Roos’s close corporation from the airport in November 2009.
On March 15 last year, Acting Judge Shafimana Ueitele ruled in favour of the municipality in the High Court. He found that the lease agreement had ended, as argued by the municipality, at the end of October 2009.
Having lodged an appeal against that judgement, Swakopmund Airfield CC however still remained in control of the airport.
The relationship between air transport operators and the close corporation was sour though, which even resulted in instances of threats and vandalism. The anger was allegedly fuelled by Swakopmund Airfield’s alleged slack efforts to maintain or upgrade the facility.
“Unfair” and “unrealistic” rental fees and lease agreements were also highlighted as alleged grievances that contributed to the sour relationship.
As for the long-term future of the airport, it is uncertain whether it will remain a municipal service, become a partnership or be outsourced, according to Demasius.
“This will all take time, but we’ll do our best to make and keep this airport as a valuable asset for our town and its people,” he said.