MORE than 30 aviation mishaps in the past three years have caused friction between the Ministry of Works and Transport permanent secretary Peter Mwatile and the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA).
The friction also caused the redeployment in July this year of the chief air traffic officer, Victor Likando, whose job has been taken over by Phillipine Lundama. The Namibian understands that although Likando has been redeployed, he still carries his title of chief air traffic controller.
Mwatile is accused of protecting Likando, whom sources say is his friend, against any disciplinary action by the DCA.
About 12 mishaps regarding near-misses, and incorrect clearances were reported across the country at Ondangwa, Walvis Bay, Eros Suburban and Hosea Kutako International Airport. One such incident happened at Eros when the airport tower instructed an aircraft to orbit, resulting in a near collision with another aircraft. There was also a time when an aircraft was directed to line up while another was landing.
There were 11 cases in 2012, including one when a helicopter was cleared to land, while an aircraft was taxiing and that of a departing Air Namibia flight which passed close to a trainer aircraft near Hosea Kutako International Airport.
In August last year, an aircraft had to deviate from its cleared runway to avoid colliding with another. In September, another aircraft taking off from Hosea Kutako for Walvis Bay was almost involved in a mid-air collision.
This year, the Hosea Kutako tower reported a near miss on the short final runway at the airport.
Likando is accused of being responsible for these mishaps, and getting protection from Mwatile. Mwatile denied protecting Likando, pointing out instead that the DCA has always had a problem with the chief air controller. He said the DCA had a hidden agenda against Likando.
“I knew the Directorate of Civil Aviation always had a problem with him. It is very clear that the case is proof there have been violated rules and regulations and that is how I found out that the DCA has a problem with Likando.
“We need to be fair to everyone and follow public service procedures,” he said.
Mwatile also dismissed allegations that he did not want to fire Likando because of their friendship, and that he had reassigned the chief air traffic controller to serve within the department of administration and centralised support services and in the directorate of administration, division of management support and auxiliary services of the ministry.
Likando this week said that he was being turned into a sacrificial lamb for the Hosea Kutako International Airport downgrade.
“It is written that he who touches the servant of God touches the apple of his eye,” said Likando, without elaborating.
Responding to questions on behalf of the DCA director, Angeline Simana, who is on leave, the acting director, George Matroos, said there were numerous faulty reports that were sent to Mwatile.
Matroos said Likando was an accounting manager of the air traffic services and that although the DCA cannot comment on any specifics, it can confirm that details of serious public safety concerns were transmitted to the permanent secretary.
He also said the DCA communicated to Mwatile the extent of the problem and that there was elaborate documented evidence that such concerns were raised with the PS.
“The material makes it clear that the problem is based on authentic public safety concerns and nothing else,” said Matroos, adding that there is nothing in that material to support a hidden agenda against any person.
“The agenda is only to protect and enhance public safety,” he pointed out, further saying it should be understood that when the required level of safety is not met, the DCA must act in the public interest even though the decision may disappoint certain individuals.
Although the head of the directorate of air traffic accident investigations, Ericksson Nengola, could not be reached for comment, a source close to the department said investigations into some of the incidents were done and Likando was cleared.
“These accidents occur widely in the world, and cannot be held against someone,” said the source, adding though that a second probe into other allegations was still ongoing.
Transport minister Erkki Nghimtina said he could not comment since the issues were dealt with by management.