Transport minister John Mutorwa says a three-day aviation forum held in the capital last week will pave the way for development of a series of policy and structural reforms in the domestic aviation sector.
This, the minister noted, will eventually be outlined as part of a white paper to formulate new policies and legislative reforms to advance with this crucial sector.
Mutorwa, who was the keynote speaker at the forum last week, said he hopes the gathering will culminate in the reinvention, reimaging and reenergising efforts of the aviation industry and Namibia’s overall connectivity landscape.
“The forum must focus on how Namibia can re-emerge from the recent Covid-19 pandemic with a resilient and sustainable aviation industry,” said Mutorwa while officially opening the Namibia Aviation and Connectivity Forum.
It aims to charter a new and enduring but sustainable vision for the country’s aviation industry.
It also seeks to further strengthen the marriage between aviation and tourism to maximise their economic potential while also remedying any past mistakes, learning from peers and thinking outside the box to map a new future for aviation and related sectors in the country.
Also attending the forum, head of the southern African region from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alex Stancu, urged governments to prioritise the aviation industry and enhance the regulatory framework.
Stancu further urged visa openness amongst African states, improvement of airport infrastructure and adequate access to foreign currency.
Moreover, Namibia Airports Company (NAC) board chairperson, Leake Hangala, said there is a need for a dialogue to transform inheritance of inequitable, inefficient and misallocation of resources in a future where all efforts are joined together for a common purpose and prosperity.
In August this year, during the launch of the forum, Hangala said the demise of Air Namibia is one of the most devastating events that occurred in the sector.
“Its demise has resulted in a number of our people losing jobs and the country losing its national flag carrier. Losing Air Namibia has also resulted in the loss of domestic competition,” Hangala complained.
At the same occasion, he called on the forum to look at how the industry can revive a national airline that is packaged in such a manner to be financially viable, operationally efficient, and one that will contribute to domestic and regional competition and thereby provide consumers with a choice.
However, some former Air Namibia employees who marked day four of camping at the liquidated company’s offices, due to unpaid severance packages, held a silent protest at Safari Hotel where the forum is taking place.
“If no positive response comes out today, we are determined to continue to the Swapo party congress slated for next weekend,” said former Air Namibia employee, Renier Bougard.
He added: “What is aviation without a national airline? We are here hungry and unemployed. Government should come in and rescue us.”
Bougard said former Air Namibia employees received a notice from the labour ministry to meet on 16 December 2022 to discuss the severance payment matter.
According to him, there is an ongoing dispute regarding the amounts signed off on the last day of their work: “However, we understand there is a different amount they want to pay. We don’t have concrete evidence, and we can’t meet with them to refute the claim at the moment.”
Air Namibia was liquidated after government, as the sole shareholder, pulled the plug in March 2020 after it was confirmed the airline accumulated about N$3.5 billion in debt on top of a government-guaranteed debt of N$2.58 billion.
According to a report on 4 August 2021 by Bruni and McLaren, Air Namibia still owed N$105.5 million in unpaid severance packages to former employees.