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Airport cargo dispute referred to mediator

The dispute about cargo that has been stuck in a warehouse of airport services company Menzies Aviation (Namibia) at Hosea Kutako International Airport for more than two weeks has been referred to a mediator of the Windhoek High Court.

Judge Shafimana Ueitele yesterday referred the dispute about the release of cargo stored in a Menzies warehouse at the airport to High Court mediator Marinus Nederlof, and directed that the mediation should take place today.

Nederlof has to submit a report on the mediation to the High Court’s alternative dispute resolution office by tomorrow afternoon, Ueitele ordered as well.

In the same order, Ueitele postponed the hearing of the latest urgent application filed by Menzies in the Windhoek High Court as it continues with a drawn-out legal battle against the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) and a competitor, Paragon Investment Holdings, to Monday next week.

Menzies initially wanted the hearing to take place yesterday.

Menzies filed the urgent application after judge Hannelie Prinsloo on Friday dismissed another urgent application, in which Menzies was trying to get a court order allowing it to again take possession of parts of the airport from which the NAC evicted it on 19 August.

In its new urgent application, Menzies is asking the court to allow it to return to Hosea Kutako International Airport until the NAC gives it “due notice” to vacate the airport.

The NAC evicted Menzies based on an order that was granted by a High Court judge near the end of June last year and upheld by the Supreme Court in June this year.

Menzies provided ground handling services at the airport since the start of 2014.

The NAC awarded a new contract for the provision of ground handling services at the airport to Paragon in December 2021. Menzies is challenging that decision in another case that is pending in the High Court and is scheduled to be heard at the start of December.

In an affidavit filed at the court on Friday evening, Menzies manager Emile Smith says about 23 tonnes of cargo – including blood reagents urgently needed by the Blood Transfusion Service of Namibia – are locked up in Menzies’ warehouse at the airport.

Smith says the NAC has insisted that Menzies should hand the cargo to Paragon, which started to carry out ground handling services at the airport on 19 August.

However, according to Smith this is impossible, as Menzies is responsible and liable to the senders and recipients of the cargo, and the company would act recklessly if it hands the cargo to any other party.

Smith also says the NAC has refused to allow Menzies to have access to the airport and its warehouse to deliver the cargo to waiting customers.

The NAC and Paragon have both requested the court to be given time to respond to the claims made by Menzies through Smith’s affidavit.