No Challenge Air N$107m payment as deadline lapses

19 February 2021 | Transport

OGONE TLHAGE



WINDHOEK

Lawyers of Belgian company Challenge Air said as of yesterday afternoon, they had neither received payment nor communication from Air Namibia regarding a N$107 million-dollar debt which was due to be settled yesterday as part of an agreement between the two parties.

Payment of this money was the only way that would have prevented Air Namibia from facing a court-sanctioned liquidation, which could be triggered today because of its failure to honour the terms of the settlement agreement, which was made a court order in January.

Yesterday, Challenge Air lawyer Sisa Namandje wrote a letter to the Business and Intellectual Property Authority, informing it that any attempt by Air Namibia to register a voluntary liquidation would be opposed.

“Challenge Air’s liquidator must be given an opportunity to as to why the Registrar should not register any special resolution seeking voluntary winding up for Air Namibia,” Namandje wrote yesterday.

The Challenge Air legal team already told Namibian Sun earlier in the week that they would proceed with attaching Air Namibia’s assets today if no payment was received by 18 February.

The payment stems from a last-minute agreement entered into between the airline’s previous board, led by lawyer Escher Luanda, and Namandje, that would have seen Air Namibia make a lump sum payment yesterday and a series of subsequent monthly payments to settle an outstanding debt of N$180 million.

The settlement agreement delayed the liquidation of Air Namibia’s assets by Challenge Air.

‘There will be consequences’

Challenge Air representatives yesterday informed Namibian Sun that the company will proceed with action today to recoup the money it is owed.

“We are just waiting for Air Namibia; they did not come back to us. We have not received any communication. If they remain silent, there will be consequences. It is a pity; it is really a pity,” a Challenge Air representative said yesterday.

An attempt to voluntarily liquidate Air Namibia and protect its assets from being attached by the Belgians today seems to also have failed, as public anger soars over Cabinet’s decision last week to liquidate the national airline.

Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste yesterday described the situation as “complicated” when asked for a status update.

“The matter and all associated processes [are] extremely complicated, sensitive and of an intricate nature. I cannot share the information you are requesting as this may compromise our position at this critical time,” he said.

Best decision

Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi, speaking in the National Assembly on Air Namibia yesterday, insisted that liquidating the airline remains the best decision.

Interim Air Namibia managing director Theo Mberirua did not comment when asked about the payment due to Challenge Air.

The Belgian outfit filed for the airline’s liquidation over the non-payment of leases, maintenance and insurance stemming from the cancelled lease of a defective Boeing 767 aircraft back in 1998.

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