WINDHOEK - A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security has concluded that Mpacha Airport in Katima Mulilo is in a bad shape, especially its runway.
According to the report tabled in the National Assembly late last year, the Katima Mulilo airport is built within a former military base and operates just opposite a base where the Ministry of Defence stores its heavy ammunitions, making it very difficult to upgrade it to respond to aviation rules.
However, the report shows that plans are under way to move it further towards the runway direction for possible upgrade and expansion.
This is among the many challenging findings by the committee that undertook visits to inquire into the security situation at the Port of Walvis Bay, airports and aerodromes in Erongo, Khomas, Zambezi, Kunene and Otjozondjupa regions last year.
In compliance with the international aviation rules, the airport runway has to be expanded and the entire airport needs to be revamped.
Hence, the committee was informed that a tender will soon be advertised for public bidding.
“Officials feel there is a great need for the airport to be expanded and to upgrade the runway to comply with international aviation rules,” the report indicates.
In addition, the committee found out that except Air Namibia which utilises the airport, lodge owners who own private planes also use the airstrip for taking off and landing in Kavango East, Bagani and Omega.
However, parliamentarians observed that they do this without proper search and control, of which airport officials, police and immigration feel is promoting illegal practices.
Therefore, the committee suggested that for these planes to be searched, proper legislation has to be enacted to avoid litigation against government, by lodge owners.
The committee found that the current setup at the airport compromises the security level because the police have no total control over departing passengers, as they move up and down freely, even after having gone through security search.
Katima Mulilo and Rundu airports are manned by three stakeholders mainly Namibia Airports Company (NAC), Namibian Police and immigration officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
NAC is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the airport and maintenance, while the police are responsible for the operation of the walkthrough metal detector and x-ray (scanner) machines.
They are used to conducting electronic body search on passengers and x-rays are used to search luggage bags.
The committee was informed that in the absence of machines being operational, a random physical body and luggage search is conducted on all passengers departing and arriving.
The parliamentarians were also informed that due to shortage of manpower at the regional office, immigration officials work on call out.
They only go to the airport whenever there is a clearance to be done and a 24-hour notice has to be given.