By Catherine Sasman
Managing Director of Air Namibia, Cosmos Egumbo, yesterday said the statements made against the airline by Republican Party president Henk Mudge, are “blatantly racist in their inclination and unpatriotic in what they seek to achieve”.
“They [the statements] seem to have been driven by a mentality that have a phobia for socio-economic transformation in this country,” said Egumbo at a press briefing yesterday, flanked by officials from the airline that Mudge has accused of being either not sufficiently competent, or fast-tracked in positions they can barely manage.
Egumbo denied all allegations made by Mudge, and claimed that Mudge’s diatribe against the airline smacked of an ulterior motive after a “close relative” – Mudge’s brother, Jaco – of his had failed to find employment there.
Egumbo said the relative had been interviewed, but that a “more competent” candidate had been selected for the position.
Mudge denied this countercharge, saying that he is on record for having raised his concerns over the airline in Parliament and with discussions with President Hifikepunye Pohamba over the last two years.
Egumbo said Mudge had received his information from the Namibian Pilots Association (NAPA) that represents 45 of 71 pilots employed in Namibia.
He further stated that Mudge’s attack makes it clear that he wants Air Namibia to primarily employ white pilots “as there are no suitably qualified or well-experienced, passionate black pilots at Air Namibia”, and that black members of the executive management be replaced by white well-qualified business people.
He said Mudge’s statements could have far-reaching consequences for the airline, and particularly flights undertaken to European Union countries, adding that Mudge is a “disgruntled politician who is trying to score cheap political points”.
“These irresponsible statements are tantamount to sabotage of the country’s economy and we call upon all patriotic Namibians of all backgrounds to condemn them with the contempt they deserve,” Egumbo fired back.
He said all pilots of Air Namibia have qualifications not only suitable to the management of the airline, but in fact to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), which regulates the industry’s performance through the Namibian Civil Aviation Regulations and Civil Aviation Technical Standards.
He further stated that Air Namibia has subjected itself to the world standard IAT Operational Safety Audit, and did “exceptionally well”.
The airline’s pilot programme, he continued, is “one of the best”, working with external service providers in Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, and recently Egypt, which he added is one of Africa’s frontrunners in terms of safety standards compliance and IOSA [International Civil Aviation Organisation] certification.
“Air Namibia has an excellent safety record,” maintained Egumbo, saying that the airline has for the past three years enjoyed insurance premium reductions, with a reduction of 34 percent last year.
“In an era where most African airlines are banned from operating into European territory, we remain one of the few African flagships that operate in Europe daily and having to meet all the stringent European requirements,” Egumbo said.
He further denied Mudge’s allegation that between eight and 10 pilots have left the airline, saying only four had left over the last 12 months.
The company, he said, has maintained retention of its senior pilots, and is developing new talents in terms of the progression of its young pilots on the one hand, as well as attracting senior pilots from outside on contract.
“We have stepped up our training and development programme to ensure combined crew resources in tough times coming ahead. Transformation is an integral part of this plan,” said Egumbo, adding that the transformation would continue to see more black Namibians enter the aviation industry as vacancies occur.
The company’s profit margin has improved from -43.81 percent in 2004/2005 and is expected to improve to levels of -21 percent in the 2007/2008 financial year, with a projection of -11 percent by the end of this year, and -6 percent in 2009/2010.