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Racism, prejudice blight aviation authority

2020-07-21  Edgar Brandt

Racism, prejudice blight aviation authority
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Racism allegations have reared its ugly head at the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), where the under-fire management has been accused of presiding over unfair salary grades, lack of transparency and questionable tenders, among others. 
Works and transport minister John Mutorwa is today expected to address allegations, brought to the fore last week by suspended assistant legal officer Natalia Isak. 

Isak last week opened a can of worms at the NCAA for alleged unfair salary grades, lack of transparency, illegal recruitment processes, questionable tenders, staff victimisation, as well as gender and race discrimination.  
An aviation expert from South Africa Linden Birns yesterday cautioned the allegations poses a threat to the credibility of the local civil aviation authority. 

“Civil aviation authorities play a crucial safety oversight and regulatory role, which impacts a country’s entire economy. As the standards setter, they are expected to lead by example or risk losing – not only their institutional credibility but the country’s competitive edge,” he briefed New Era. 

Last Friday, Isak, who claimed her suspension was unlawful, penned a 16-page letter to the NCAA board chairperson Kosmos Egumbo. In the letter, she charged “persons with significant control in the NCAA, namely the IED (interim executive director), advisors to the IED, CFO (chief financial officer), HR manager, and several other persons in key managerial positions, lack integrity and are therefore not fit and proper persons for the official positions they currently hold”. 

She also claimed white employees were getting paid far better than their black colleagues, despite being in the same rank. The letter further claimed that “the governance of the NCAA is currently directed at advancing only the interests of the aviation industry and greedy NCAA staff, who are only acting in their own interest to the detriment of the NCAA, government’s plans towards development – and, therefore, contrary to public interest”. 

Digital recordings by Isak of NCAA staff and security escorting her out of the relatively new NCAA building were shared far and wide on social media platforms. 

“The second grievance I raised is the illegal recruitment processes conducted by HR, on the instruction or with the knowledge of IED. These include that of Mr Hans-Wiehahn, whose position as advisor to the IED, was not advertised, is not on the organisational structure, had no job specification until after his appointment (because he then drafted it himself), does not require skills not available in Namibia – and yet the said Hans-Wiehahn, being a foreign national, has been employed in the said position, without Namibians even being allowed the opportunity to apply for it. Recruitments of this nature are in contravention of Section 16 of the Employment Services Act and the Home Affairs requirements for the granting of a work permit to a foreign national,” reads Isak’s letter, citing numerous examples of questionable appointments and lack of transparency. 

In a statement, issued at the beginning of June this year, Mutorwa vehemently opposed the reappointment of Reinhard Gartner as IED and instructed the NCAA board to finalise the appointment of a substantive head. 
In the same statement, Mutorwa questioned the employment of South African nationals at the civil aviation authority. On Friday, the Swapo Party Youth League secretary Efraim Nekongo condemned the chaos at the NCAA and called on relevant institutions to urgently intervene to restore order at the authority. 

The NCAA functions autonomously under a board of directors, appointed by the minister of works and transport in his capacity as the portfolio minister. As such, the NCAA is the independent statutory authority of Namibia’s civil aviation industry, whose a key role is to conduct the safety and security regulation of civil air operations in the country’s airspace and to provide air navigational services to all airspace users. 
Attempts to reach both the NCAA management and Egumbo yesterday proved futile. 

2020-07-21  Edgar Brandt

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