Our national embarrassment

12 June 2019 | Columns

Our national airline is once again back in the limelight and hogging the headlines for all the wrong reasons. News first broke on Monday that only one of Air Namibia’s four Airbus A319 aircraft were in operation, with the remaining three seized in South Africa and Cyprus because of unpaid debts. It was reported that three aircraft underwent mandatory maintenance checks in South Africa and Cyprus and were seized there. V5-ANN is currently with South African Airways Technical (SAAT) undergoing a scheduled maintenance check. The maintenance work was completed on 7 June, but SAAT indicated the aircraft would not be released, pending the settlement of the account. V5-ANK is currently in Cyprus and the maintenance work was done, but the aircraft will only be released once a payment of N$5.1 million is received. For many years, taxpayers have had to endure a gluttony of bailouts as the national airline kept its begging bowl firmly under government’s nose, while leaking billions of dollars. Strategic plan after strategic plan was crafted, seemingly every five years, with the hope that a semblance of self-sustainability could be reached. The issue here is that Air Namibia has been badly managed and accountability and transparency have not been forthcoming. In the same vein, there was a distinct lack of political leadership that could have stopped this rot in its track. Yet again we have woken up after the train has left the station. We are now in a huge mess of epic proportion, given that a national airline is supposed to be the pride of a nation. Ours has now become a laughing stock. Instead of charting a new course to put the airline on the right trajectory, internal strife and infighting became the order of the day. And instead of following sound business principles, executives behaved like treasury has an unlimited supply of cash to sustain their sheer ineptitude. How the mighty have fallen.