Cabinet unshaken by liquidation demos

Government is pressing ahead with its decision to pull the plug on Air Namibia, the prime minister told the ruling party’s youth wing.

18 February 2021 | Transport

STAFF REPORTER







WINDHOEK

Cabinet is not retreating on its decision to liquidate Air Namibia, a position lucidly explained to the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) executive on Tuesday night by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

Government is also unfazed by nationwide demonstrations led by the Swapo-affiliated National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), which made a symbolic stop at the party headquarters in Katutura yesterday.

Tuesday evening’s meeting was supposed to be attended by NUNW leaders, but they absconded in protest, saying they did not want to meet public enterprises minister Leon Jooste, who was also scheduled to attend.

Jooste did not attend the meeting for security reasons, officials told Namibian Sun. Instead, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila showed up with mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo and National Planning Commission director general Obeth Kandjoze.

SPYL and NUNW have been at the forefront of calling for government to halt its plan of liquidating Air Namibia, a position backed by some sections within Swapo.

Last week, Swapo parliamentarians demanded answers from Jooste and his finance counterpart Iipumbu Shiimi, who jointly announced a day earlier that the perpetually loss-making national airline will be liquidated after Cabinet approved that plan.

Bread and butter

The divisions within Swapo over the liquidation are fast morphing into factional divisions ahead of the party’s elective congress next year.

NUNW secretary-general Job Muniaro denied this week that the demonstrations had their roots in the upcoming Swapo elective congress, saying it was an insult to bring politics into a matter of bread and butter.

Senior government officials yesterday echoed the prime minister’s message to SPYL – that Cabinet is at a point of no return as far as liquidation of the airline is concerned.

“The top four of government [president, vice-president, prime minister and deputy prime minister] decided on Tuesday that liquidation is on. The Cabinet Committee of Treasury also met this week. What was communicated to SPYL is the final government position on liquidation,” a senior official told Namibian Sun yesterday.

A member of the SPYL national executive committee who attended the meeting with the prime minister said: “Government’s position on liquidation remains the same. They told us that there’s still room to engage until the last day of liquidation.

“We came back disappointed, really, as they are still on engagement. We want action of reversing their decision. It was a hot meeting, actually – and now it's up to them. We as SPYL and the party itself have done our part.”

Jooste out

Although liquidating Air Namibia was first officially suggested by President Hage Geingob during his State of the Nation Address in 2020, it is Jooste who continues to get the flack.

Demonstrators at Otjiwarongo yesterday demanded Jooste’s removal from parliament, which would effectively mean kissing his Cabinet post goodbye too.

The protesters had placards with phrases such as ‘Jooste resign now’ and ‘shame on Shiimi’ as well as ‘Namibia is not for sale’.

A petition, authored by Muniaro, was handed over to Otjozondjupa governor James Uerikua.

“The fact that he [Jooste] chose to go and negotiate issues relating to Air Namibia singularly in the United States of America serves as a clear testimony that he has vested interest in the liquidation,” stated the petition.

The union also demanded that government revoke the Cabinet resolution on the liquidation process with immediate effect and save the national airline along with its employees.

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