Unions Petition The Government To Reverse Air Namibia Shut Down

All may not be said and done when it comes to Air Namibia. MPs from Namibia’s ruling party SWAPO have joined forces with the countries’ largest union for civil servants, questioning the reason behind the liquidation and how it was decided. Demonstrations are planned for Wednesday in solidarity with the close to 650 people that will lose their jobs if the airline shut-down goes ahead.

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The union has joined forces with the ruling party to question the government’s decision to liquidate Air Namibia. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

Joint pressure for reversal

Just a few days ago, state-owned African carrier Air Namibia suspended flights and entered liquidation. All passenger operations were canceled effective midnight February 11th, with all planes returning to the airline’s base in Windhoek.

The parliamentary caucus of the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and several trade unions have joined forces to pressure the government to revoke its decision.

In a meeting of the caucus on Friday, chaired by prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, SWAPO MP’s reportedly inquired why they had not been consulted on the decision to liquidate the airline, All Africa reports.

Meanwhile, Namibia’s most prominent labor federation, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), has called on president Hage Geingob to immediately fire public enterprises minister Leon Jooste. The minister has been unreliable and misdirecting when informing Parliament as to why Air Namibia needed to be liquidated, it said, according to the NBC.

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The union says it will demonstrate in solidarity with Air Namibia employees this coming Wednesday. Photo: Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons

Protests against unilateral decision process

The NUNW represents more than 50% of Namibia’s civil servant population, which is estimated at 100,000 people. It is threatening nationwide demonstrations in solidarity with Air Namibia employees. If the liquidation goes ahead, 644 airline staff will lose their jobs.

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The first demonstration is planned for Wednesday. NUNW Secretary General Job Muniaro said the focus would remain on getting minister Jooste ousted from the government. However, ultimately, the union also wants the government to reverse its decision to liquidate its airline. NUNW says it was not consulted before the news came and that the government should further assist the carrier financially rather than shut it down completely.

“We are further receiving support from business communities who care for Air Namibia and feel the government, particularly the minister of public enterprises, took a unilateral decision to liquidate Air Namibia without proper consultation,” Mr Muniaro told All Africa.

He also called on anyone appointed as an auctioneer to refuse.

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Air Namibia has not made a profit in 30 years. Photo: M.Oertle via Flickr

Decades of losses and state support

Namibia’s president called for the carrier’s liquidation during his State of the Nation address back in June last year. The airline has received N$11 billion (US$28.86 million) in state-aid. For the past three decades, it has constantly been in the red.

The latest round of loans was granted in 2019. Namibia’s government then provided the carrier with N$500 million (US$1.3 million) so that it could service two of its aircraft. While the airline may have been important to help facilitate Namibia’s growing tourism sector, the last few months have completely halted immediate prospects to that effect.

Whether or not the union protests can sway the government remains to be seen. The final word may not yet have been had in the Air Namibia saga.

What do you think, is it time for the government to give up on its airline, or should it give it one more chance? Let us know in the comments.