WINDHOEK – Following the impounding of an Air Namibia aircraft in Zimbabwe, the airline has cancelled all flights to Harare pending an appeal to that country’s Supreme Court. The airline has thus resolved to divert its existing flights between Hosea Kutako International Airport and Victoria Falls to Livingstone, Zambia, for the period October 06, 2018 to October 27, 2018.
According to an Air Namibia statement released yesterday, the airline was informed on Friday last week that the Sherriff of Court in Harare had impounded the aircraft operated by Air Namibia, which in fact belongs to Westair. Air Namibia entered into a lease arrangement with Westair Aviation to utilise Westair aircraft, to operate the Air Namibia schedule whilst the Air Namibia aircraft are undergoing maintenance.
Air Namibia has thus instructed the law firm of Honey and Blanckenberg to represent it with respect to the matter at hand. Efforts are currently underway by the newly appointed law firm to have an appeal to the Supreme Court reinstated.
The contentious matter at hand is a case of Zimbabwean passengers, who were traveling as a family with visas obtained from the Turkish Consulate in Harare. According to Air Namibia the Zimbabwean family failed the security test and were denied boarding to fly to Frankfurt, and subsequently sued Air Namibia.
The five applicants, all Zimbabwean nationals, brought action against Air Namibia claiming an amount of US$1 million on March 14, 2018. They were to travel to Turkey and Air Namibia denied them boarding for travelling through Germany on advice received from the German border police.
On March 21, Air Namibia’s lawyers filed a notice of opposition to the claim, noting that the claimants did not meet satisfactory immigration requirements for them to proceed with their travel and that German immigration officials indicated they not be allowed, this in light of the fact that Air Namibia only travels to Frankfurt and not Turkey.
Air Namibia, in its statement, is adamant that the claimants did not indicate in specific detail the individuals they interacted with. “It was indicated that airline officials work hand in hand with immigration officials; it was stated that their freedom of movement was not interfered with, the airline officials are not vested with the powers or jurisdiction to arrest anyone and that therefore once denied entry claimants were free to return to their country of origin; once refused entry, the airline had no mandate to cater for their welfare; the airline met the international standard norm of airlines and Immigration authorities’ right to refuse passengers access to an aircraft in circumstances they suspect the passenger does not meet the requisite criteria since a ticket does not guarantee automatic passage; and there was no breach of contract on the part of the airline,” read the statement.
On June 27, the Zimbabwean High Court, sitting in chambers and without calling either of the parties, issued an order authorising the attachment of the airline’s assets to found jurisdiction. Air Namibia states that it became aware of the court order through the media on July 13. Upon inquiry with legal representatives the airline was informed that the pleadings filed by the airline had been removed from the court file.
“With reference to the turn of events above, our position is that the family’s claim is baseless as we have done everything within the ambits of industry practice, standards and norms. As an airline, we reserve our right to refuse passengers on our flight if they fail to meet the immigration requirements of the countries we fly to, as that will be contravening the international immigration laws. If the Zimbabwean system allows and supports such lawlessness, they are a risk to us, and we will be consulting our mandate holder on our future as far as flights in Zimbabwe are concerned,” read the statement issued by Air Namibia’s Manager for Corporate Communications Paul Homateni Nakawa.
Nakawa also noted that Air Namibia has invested significantly in Zimbabwe by having flights into that country year in year out, and even at times when their country’s economy was in tatters, Air Namibia continued flying there supporting their country.
“To date, we remain one of the very few airlines promoting Zimbabwe as a tourist destination, as part of SADC and in line with our mandate for development of the region. As an airline, we operate in compliance with international safety and other regulatory requirements. Hence the reason why Air Namibia is one of the few Africa carriers permitted to fly in the European space, and further to be granted rights to fly to the United States via our codeshare agreements,” Nakawa said.