Nevonga tells ministers off in heated meeting

23 February 2021 | Transport



In a heated meeting mediated by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Namibia Public Workers Union secretary-general Petrus Nevonga yesterday accused ministers Leon Jooste and Iipumbu Shiimi of ‘misleading’ President Hage Geingob and the entire Cabinet over Air Namibia - all in a final push to convince government to reverse the decision to liquidate the airline.

With Cabinet converging today for its routine Tuesday meeting, Nevonga, National Union of Namibian Workers secretary-general Job Muniaro, leaders of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) and representatives of Air Namibia employees yesterday sought to convince government to renege on its decision.

Finance minister Shiimi, mines and energy counterpart Tom Alweendo and director-general of the National Planning Commission Obeth Kandjoze were in attendance yesterday – as they were last week when a similar meeting took place.

Jooste was again missing at yesterday’s meeting, having snubbed the first meeting last week over his own safety, as tempers flared over the decision to liquidate.

Marathon meeting

Yesterday’s marathon meeting started at 10:00 and only ended at 14:00, with no consensus reached.

Shiimi and Alweendo, in ministerial statements last week, said the decision to liquidate the airline, which has gobbled up N$11 billion in government bailouts, was the right move.

“We want our airline back and for Cabinet to reverse the decision. Cabinet is yet to sit and look at our petition,” an attendee of the meeting told Namibian Sun yesterday.

“They [Shiimi and Jooste] lied to Cabinet and the president as he is a chairperson of Cabinet.”

The SPYL vowed in the meeting that it would not rest until the decision to liquidate is reversed.

“SPYL told them that there is an evil spirit in the whole process,” an official said.

Pressing ahead

As of yesterday afternoon, government’s position was still to press ahead with voluntarily liquidating the airline.

But even if government was talked out this move, Air Namibia can still be liquidated through a court application previously lodged by Challenge Air, a Belgian company owed N$180 million by the Namibian airline.

The national carrier had until last Thursday to make an initial payment of N$107 million to Challenge Air as part of a recent settlement agreement between the two parties.

The airline failed to make that payment, leading to attempts to have its assets attached last Friday.