Airport services company battles eviction

Passengers at the Hosea Kutako International Airport. Photo: Henry van Rooi

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) believes that starting this week, airlines will collaborate to ensure a seamless transition at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA), spokesperson Dan Kamati told The Namibian yesterday.

This follows the abrupt eviction of Menzies Aviation (Namibia) from the airport on Friday, when the HKIA entrance was marked with a heavy police presence.

The situation also resulted in Eurowings and Qatar Airways cancelling flights, while others were diverted to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“The cancellations are purely the decision of the airlines. Many flights came, were handled professionally by Paragon, and departed,” said Kamati.

Menzies was evicted from the airport after months of legal disputes during which the company contested a High Court judgement authorising its eviction from the premises. The Supreme Court upheld the judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court at the end of June last year.

The court authorised the deputy sheriff of the High Court to evict Menzies from the airport and all its occupied premises.

Menzies was appointed as the ground service handler by the NAC in 2014. The initial agreement expired at the end of 2021, and new bids were invited by the NAC for ground handling services at the airport.

Paragon Investment Holdings secured the bid for providing these services.

Menzies is currently challenging the NAC’s decision to award the contract to Paragon in an ongoing High Court case.

In a statement issued on Saturday, NAC chief executive officer Bisey Uirab said the eviction is to uphold the rule of law and facilitate a smooth transition for Paragon.

“The eviction of Menzies from HKIA is in conformity with and gave practical effect to the said Supreme Court judgement that averred that the rule of law demands that Menzies’ unlawful hold over the premises and forcing NAC to make use of its services should be put to an end, as the relevant Supreme Court judgement was implemented by evicting Menzies,” said Uirab.

Yesterday morning, Qatar aeroplanes returned to HKIA.

Eurowings dispatched a special Airlink flight from Johannesburg on Sunday to collect passengers who were stranded due to the flight cancellations on Saturday, said Paragon Investment Holdings executive for media and marketing Lazarus Jacobs.

“This special flight is returning to Johannesburg. Paragon Aviation Services in collaboration with Airlink will manage the ground handling,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs did not provide details regarding whether Paragon Aviation Services underwent a full audit by Eurowings, which reportedly contributed to the airline’s decision to divert planes to Johannesburg on Saturday.

“These are all side shows, for now, meant to distract. Our priority is servicing our clients and ensuring that passengers get to their various destinations. The lies, innuendo, agendas and propaganda will be dealt with tomorrow in a statement. We are focused on the task at hand,” said Jacobs.

On Saturday, Airlink deployed additional personnel from South Africa to assist their Windhoek team, minimising further delays.

“Airlink apologises to all customers for the delays and inconvenience experienced arriving at, and departing from, Windhoek’s HKIA on Saturday. We are alive to the situation at the airport where all operations are being affected,” read a statement from the airline.

DIVERTED … The aircraft tracking website Flightradar24 shows the route Qatar Airways flight QTR1373 from Doha in Qatar to Hosea Kutako International Airport was taking before it took a sharp turn to the left to divert to Johannesburg on Saturday morning.

NAMIBIANS RALLY BEHIND PARAGON

Namibians took to social media to support Paragon’s assumption of ground handling services at the airport.

Former minister of information and communication technology Stanley Simataa said Menzies overstayed and disregarded Paragon’s rights after being awarded the tender.

“There is one question though that is, will Menzies compensate Paragon for a year’s loss of business? And is this ethical business conduct on their part?”

Independent Patriots for Change spokesperson Immanuel ‘Imms’ Nashinge said Menzies should be blacklisted from conducting business in Namibia.

“Thirty-four years later this is unacceptable. Grow some balls Namibians,” he said.

Ministry of Information and Communication Technology executive director Audrin Mathe described Menzies’ behaviour as deplorable.

“Imagine Paragon doing this in the UK? They first remind you that you are African and you must stay in your country. Well done NAC for finally taking necessary actions,” said Mathe.

In a statement issued last week, Menzies’s group chief executive officer Philipp Joeinig reiterated the company’s commitment to continue providing ground handling services at the airport until required by law to vacate.

“It will do so in the interest of all Namibians and those who enter Namibia, until such time as it must vacate the HKIA in terms of the law. Hence, the public may rest assured that Menzies will be their dedicated ground handling service provider, for at least the next 12 months,” he said.

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