By Catherine Sasman
WINDHOEK – Nepotism, mismanagement, lack of financial discipline, double standards, and fast tracking of pilots “not capable of adhering to the responsibilities expected of them” are factors bringing the national airline to its knees, claims president of the Republican Party, Henk Mudge.
“Aviation is a highly specialized industry and is the one industry that can under no circumstances be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency,” said Mudge on Thursday.
He charged that the SWAPO Party Government has used affirmative action to appoint persons in positions for which they are not qualified and in the process compromised the safety of passengers and crew of the airline.
He further claimed that between eight and ten sufficiently trained pilots have since left the airline.
“Against the backdrop of a worldwide shortage of skilled and qualified personnel in the aviation industry, we can ill afford to lose these people,” he said.
He charged that the Managing Director of Air Namibia, Cosmos Egumbo, has been put in that position without having any “significant business experience, let alone having any experience and/or qualifications in the aviation industry” to run the multi-million-dollar specialised enterprise.
The General Manager for Flight Operations, Ben Dawa – a Zimbabwean national – said Mudge, was appointed at the expense of qualified and experienced Namibians, adding, “It seems the SWAPO Government is so besotted with affirmative action that they will rather appoint a foreigner, as long as he or she is from what we term the previously disadvantaged group.”
He further criticised the appointment of the Senior Manager: Flight, a certain Mr Ekandjo, after qualifying standards for the position had been lowered to allow the appointment.
“My information is that this captain Ekandjo regards himself as one of the untouchables in the airline,” criticised Mudge.
He further charged that a certain Niandoro, currently a pilot on the Government Transport Services (GATS) fleet, was appointed a designated examiner (DE) and apparently also as head of training.
Mudge said Niandoro was not qualified to fly either a Boeing 747 or the Airbus. He said the company was now looking for another instructor to help Niandoro, saying Niandoro was “promised” direct command on the 747 “by somebody and the rumours are that that somebody is Captain Ekandjo”, said Mudge.
Another “surprise” appointment, said Mudge, was that of a certain Captain Kint – a foreigner married to a Namibian “with serious contacts in high places”.
Kint, said Mudge, left the airline “under dubious circumstances” and rumours of a number of sexual harassment cases filed against him.
Another bone of contention, said Mudge, was the fact that the airline’s crew is sent on long haul flights, and back, to Gatwick in London or Frankfurt, to save costs.
“The fact that Namibia needs a national airline is not in dispute,” he said.
“What is in contention is the lack of financial prudence which results in exorbitant amounts of subsidies mainly as a result of mismanagement. Add to this the preoccupation with affirmative action and an overall lack of accountability, then the vital aspect of operational safety comes into the spotlight,” the politician said.
Mudge said he has had discussions with President Hifikepunye Pohamba where he raised these concerns, and the airline management has since discussed a letter sent by him to a “high ranking official” on May 22 that raises these and other concerns.
New Era was unable to get comment from Air Namibia by the time of going to press.