Rundu-Deputy Minister of Works and Transport James Sankwasa says he has a problem with civil servants who always make excuses about not having funds for the construction of essential infrastructure.
The deputy minister was referring specifically to the lack of facilities at Rundu Airport, where Namibia Airports Company (NAC) has failed to build a terminal or put up lights along the runway, among other shortcomings.
“My problem with civil servants [is that] from last year, everybody says, ‘no resources, no resources.’ That’s where I have a problem, this country had money and this airport is not from yesterday, we had money. Why was this thing not done? And you people were not in the office as from yesterday, why were these things not done?,” he demanded to know.
“Our NDP4 in the last five years has set infrastructure development as a priority. Why was this airport not attended to? NDP4 has come and lapsed and this has not been attended to. How did we set our priorities? That is my challenge with civil servants,” he said.
The airport has no terminal, but offers a shaded area with 25 seats, where clients can sit while some must stand due to the lack of seats when waiting to catch their flight, or after they landed and are waiting to be picked up.
“The situation is not right at Rundu Airport… there’s no terminal for passengers. The apron where the plane must park is also not good. It’s not in a good state as there are a lot of loose concrete stones which are dangerous to the engine of the plane, as that is where it takes off from,” Sankwasa noted.
Rundu Airport, with its 3.5 km runway, can accommodate aircraft with a weight of 190,000 kg, meaning an Airbus 319 can land on it, but the challenges include a lack of facilities, such as sufficient apron and taxiway, the lack of a terminal, as well as the low-capacity ablution facility.
The toilets at the airport have only two toilet pots in the male section and two in the female section, which are used by both staff and clients.
Apart from not having a terminal, it also has a dark runway with no lights, which can make it hard for planes to take off at night, even if it needs to transport a patient to Windhoek for urgent medical care.
“The visual airport concept needs to be addressed. Windhoek is too far. I am talking about issues of responding to the health needs of the people. In case of an emergency, we have accidents in this area and we need to fly passengers who are in critical condition to Windhoek, you cannot say that person must wait until the following morning. There are also no lights here ever since this was built decades ago,” Sankwasa complained.
“And if we were to increase the number of passengers… for example, we are saying that we have so much road carnage, we need to bring our passengers from the ground to the air and we increase the frequency of aircraft here, are you able to handle it at this airport which is in this state?” the deputy minister asked NAC staff.
“At the moment the terminal capacity is unable to accommodate the… increased passenger flow. The airport is unable to accommodate that at this point in time, hence we have a drive to have a terminal facility set up that would obviously accommodate such kind of movement,” said NAC strategic executive for Eros and regional airports Leornard Shipuata.
Rundu Airport also has no refueling facility for aircraft and thus the provision of fuel is outsourced to a private service provider, who normally takes fuel to the airport on request.
“Our focus was on our four strategic airports: Hosea Kutako, Eros, Ondangwa and Walvis Bay, so for the smaller airports – which includes Rundu, Katima, Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop – we have millions of complaints and because of [lack of] resources are unable to meet all the demands,” said Tamer EL-Kallawi, NAC chief executive officer who suggested there are no plans in place to upgrade Rundu Airport.
Sankwasa advised the NAC boss to consider distances when making priorities: “This airport is more than 700 km [from Windhoek] and we have accidents here. We have to fly passengers and to make it worse there are no lights here, how do we deal with that?”
He wants NAC to urgently look at improving infrastructure at Rundu Airport and opined that the airport does not even come close to meeting the required standards. The deputy minister and a delegation from his ministry, as well as NAC staff, are touring the country’s airports to assess their condition and services.