The largest trade union in the country, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), is organising a demonstration this week in a bid to reverse the closing down of Air Namibia and to call for the resignation of public enterprises minister Leon Jooste.
Calling Air Namibia a national asset and a valuable source of employment, a disappointed NUNW secretary general Job Muniaro yesterday told New Era the demonstration planned for Wednesday will start at the union’s head office and will end at the Swapo Party head office.
“The liquidation of Air Namibia is against the will of the people. We never voted for Swapo to put people in positions to auction off this country. These people must improve the livelihood of all Namibians,” said Muniaro.
The NUNW chief also questioned why alternative measures, such as new directors and management, were not taken to rescue the ailing airline.
“We will never get those jobs back and there is no guarantee we will ever get a national airline back,” Muniaro bemoaned, adding “They must withdraw the liquidation and Jooste must go”.
Weighing in on the debacle, All People’s Party president Ignatius Shixwameni said his party completely rejects the liquidation of Air Namibia and other state assets.
The opposition politician added there can be no compromise on workers and their families lives, and that SOEs must be protected and defended at all times.
“We must just do away with cronyism and recruit proper qualified and dedicated Namibian professionals to head those institutions and also be board members of such institutions. The policy of ‘comrades for recruitment’ must fall. Let us recruit competent and capable black Namibians to run all Namibian institutions,” said Shixwameni.
Meanwhile, Rally for Democracy and Progress president Mike Kavekotora said, unfortunately, the liquidation of the national airline became the only viable option after the executive ignored repeated advice from his party.
“We must remember that the airline has been technically insolvent for a number of years and effectively cannot meet its obligation and, therefore, forced to liquidate,” said Kavekotora.
Then, the International Association for Air Transport (IATA), which has 265 members from 117 nations and of which Air Namibia was a member, said the liquidation will leave Namibia without a local airline capable of providing the long-haul connectivity essential for economic recovery.
This recovery, said IATA, is heavily dependent on tourism and exports of high-value gemstones, fish, meat and other perishables that require national air connectivity.
“There can be no doubt the present pandemic and accompanying economic crisis placed Air Namibia under even greater financial distress,” said an IATA spokesperson in Geneva, Switzerland.
IATA also called on the Namibian government to provide support and relief to the rest of the country’s air transport, aviation and tourism industry, including its infrastructure service providers and aviation safety regulator, without which it will struggle to recover the domestic economy, which is dependent on the connectivity and efficiencies that only air transport is capable of providing.
“Funding for this type of support is available. International financial aid and donor agencies have pledged over US$30 billion (about N$440 billion) for governments to support air transport and tourism businesses across Africa, including Namibia,” IATA stated.
However, the association said it is yet to see this support reach where it is needed, calling for financial administrative bottlenecks to be unblocked.