Minister of Public Enterprises Leon Jooste says he was not in anyway involved in the deal that saw West Air Aviation procuring four aircrafts currently being leased by Air Namibia from a French aviation firm. Jooste has been accused of sharing sensitive Air Namibia information with third parties and allegedly forming part of a plot to clip the wings of the national carrier. The minister said he shares no personal or professional ties with West Air Aviation. “I have no professional ties with this company at all. My family was involved in the aviation business many years ago and I therefore know several people in the sector but I have no friendship relationship with anyone working for this company,” he said. When asked if he was aware of the transaction, he said: “I received a document titled “Namibia Aircraft Leasing Proposal” dated 22 March 2017 from this company. This is a concept proposal which proposes that this company manage the aircraft in a Namibian Aircraft Asset company together with Air Namibia. The document does not mention this transaction. There has however not been any further discussion on this. I proposed that since this may be a PPP, further discussions should take place with Ministry of Finance before any further proposals are made but this has not taken place yet.”
Regarding the possible repercussions of the deal on Air Namibia, Jooste said it all depends on Air Namibia’s strategy regarding their future equipment needs and whether they[Air Namibia ] want to replace the current Embraer ERJ 135s with different equipment or not. “Air Namibia has not shared this information with me yet so it’s difficult to say. All lease agreements have detailed terms of which the period of lease is one. I’m sure that Air Namibia has planned pro-actively and that they know what they want to do in this regard. If it is true that a Namibian company is buying these particular aircraft, Air Namibia will probably still be able to lease them until the expiry of the lease agreement and then either negotiate a renewal with them or with any of the other global aircraft leasing companies,” said the minister. There are claims that the minister flew to the Paris Air Show earlier this month in a Wings Aviation Services-owned aircraft and his recent visit to France has since raised eyebrows among critics who claim the minister was part of the negotiations for West Air Aviation Services to procure the services-although Air Namibia was supposed to get the first right to purchase as per the lease agreement.
“This is completely false! A high-level delegation from Airbus visited Namibia earlier this year to present a potential project to commercialize the combating of illegal fishing by utilizing their satellite technology. They want to pilot this project in Namibia and Ivory Coast and the proposal is that this activity be done through an existing or a new Public Enterprise. It was therefore agreed that the Ministry of Public Enterprises take the lead to establish the economic feasibility of the project before any further decisions or commitments are made. I was subsequently invited by Airbus to France for a demonstration of the system as well the first round of technical discussions on the proposed business model. Airbus proposed to plan this trip to coincide with the Paris Airshow. I was accompanied by two officials from the Ministry of Public Enterprises as well as two from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. We all travelled to Paris and then Toulouse with commercial airlines and definitely not with a “Wings Aviation Services” owned aircraft. In fact, I am not aware that they even own aircraft with intercontinental capabilities. I have never met or communicated with any representative from HOP! and I had no contact with anyone representing the other company during the short visit to France. He reiterated that the trip was official and he requested and received formal approval from President Hage Geingob for the trip and he[President] is fully aware of the purpose of this trip. Jooste dismissed the entire affair and stated that “my creative imagination is quite clear on who is behind this story”.