Parastatal RAILWAY TransNamib is considering possible liquidation if it fails to fend off an attempt by the liquidators of defunct Belgian airline Challenge Air SA to claim N$161 million from its coffers.
The liquidators of the Belgian company, Anicet Baumm, through local lawyer Sisa Namandje, have issued a letter of formal notice in which they indicate that TransNamib is being sued for the same amount in default by Air Namibia as sister company of the former national airline.
The letter, which The Namibian has seen, shows that Challenge Air wants to recover the N$161 million that Air Namibia failed to pay before its liquidation.
“This letter is therefore a formal notice (…) for payment of the amount currently due up to 9,863,053.04 euros within 15 days of receipt of this formal notice, failing which you will be deemed unable to pay your debts in accordance with the above section of the Companies Act, and we will proceed to apply to the High Court for an order seeking the winding up of TransNamib,” Namandje wrote.
Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste, however, said this week that he believed the rail company would challenge the liquidation in court.
This follows Challenge Air’s 2020 filing for liquidation of loss-making airline Air Namibia, claiming it was insolvent and unable to repay approximately N$253 million in debt incurred for the lease of a Boeing. 767 in 1998.
Although the two companies reached an agreement, the government still decided to liquidate Air Namibia.
Challenge Air, through Namandje, wrote to TransNamib, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Ministry of Public Enterprises demanding the overdue payment.
“You will recall that in arbitration proceedings between our client, Air Namibia Limited and TransNamib Holdings Ltd, a partial final decision on liability was issued on August 6, 2018, together with the final decision on the quantum,” Namandje wrote.
The letter stated that an order from the Regional Court in Munich, Germany, had been issued against Air Namibia and TransNamib on January 12, 2015, and although the awards had been brought to the attention of the two parastatals, Challenge Air did not received only partial payment from Air Namibia before its liquidation.
Abigail Raubenheimer, spokeswoman for TransNamib, said the railway company reiterates its position that it was not a party to the settlement agreement reached between Air Namibia and Challenge Air in 2019.
“In the meantime, TransNamib is consulting with its legal representatives on the appropriate action to defend this letter of formal notice,” she said.
Meanwhile, Job Muniaro, the general secretary of the National Union of Namibian Workers, said the government should consult with the federation and other stakeholders to find a solution to the problem.
He says the government should avoid making the same mistake that it liquidated Air Namibia.
The government liquidated its national airline without worrying about the consequences, he says.
“What we said was that we should avoid liquidating ourselves, like the government did with the liquidation of Air Namibia. That is where the problem lies.
“If TransNamib is liquidated, it would not just be an embarrassment for the railway company, but an embarrassment for the government and the whole country,” Muniaro said.
He says the company’s workers and their families would be hit hardest, not the politicians.