A United Kingdom-headquartered company, currently contracted to provide ground handling services at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, has refused to hand over the reins to a joint venture between Paragon Investment Holdings and Ethiopia Airlines.
Menzies Aviation has now dragged the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) to court, where it is challenging a decision by the airport authority to appoint the joint venture between Paragon Investment Holdings and Ethiopia Airlines.
Menzies Aviation’s contract is due to lapse on 30 June, paving way for the joint venture between Paragon Investment Holdings and Ethiopia Airlines to handle logistical services at the country’s main international airport with effect from 1 July.
In court papers filed before the Windhoek High Court, Menzies director Ian Michael van Rooyen claims HKIA would be in grave danger should the joint venture take over the operations, as they are not ready to do so.
He said the company’s re-equipment resource plan is based on using the now liquidated Air Namibia’s old ground service equipment, saying the new joint venture partners have spent N$2 million on “panel-beating this old and outdated equipment”.
“Paragon is panel-beating old second-hand cheap equipment to approach this court to take over, on an urgent basis, a service that (Namibia Airports Company) itself says must be delivered to protect the integrity of Namibia,” Van Rooyen argued in an urgent application.
In addition, Van Rooyen claims, the joint venture intends on increasing prices, which would adversely affect tourism in the country.
Menzies has since filed an application seeking a review of NAC’s decision to award the multi-million-dollar contract to the joint venture between Paragon Ethiopia Airlines.
Menzies also claim they were discriminated against on the basis that they are not Namibian, despite 51% of its shares being owned by locals.
Furthermore, they said, NAC awarded the tender to a joint venture that did not meet bidding requirements, and it violated the law by awarding a tender exceeding N$25 million.
This, they say, is against the stipulated threshold, suggesting the Central Procurement Board of Namibia should have handled the bidding process.
Despite the review application, NAC approached the court to declare that the contract between it and Menzies shall lapse on 30 June.
Menzies has been providing passenger and cargo handling services at HKIA since February 2014.
Its contract has been extended twice before.
NAC also wants the court to declare that Menzies shall cease providing all services at HKIA, vacate occupation of any premises at the airport, and hand over all security access cards or other access equipment entitling it to access to HKIA or any premises it occupied during its operations.
Should they refuse to do so, the court may direct the Namibian police or sheriff of the court to evict them.
According to NAC CEO Bisey /Uirab, on 22 April, they informed Menzies that the contract will come to an end due to the effluxion of time on 30 June.
Several follow-ups were made but to no avail.
Menzies, through their lawyers, allegedly responded on 26 April, raising concerns on why the joint venture does not have the ability to render ground handling services.
NAC believes Menzies is frustrating the smooth transition from one service provider to another, and forcing its hand to extend the contract once more.
“The absence of ground handling services at HKIA would adversely affect the airline’s operations across the board regarding check-in, clearing and coordination,” said /Uirab.
/Uirab noted, unlike Menzies, the newly appointed joint venture provides NAC with a guaranteed income of N$538 000 per month, which is an increase of 11% per annum.
The matter is being decided by High Court Judge Orben Sibeya, with judgement due on 29 June.