NCAA national security breach conundrum

… as unauthorised aircraft ‘freely’ enter and exit Namibia

By Hilary Mare

THE Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has twice this year allegedly allowed unauthorised aircraft -both from South Africa to land in and depart from Namibia triggering

fears that the country’s national security is under threat, Confidente can reveal. With a similar incident reported to have taken place earlier in the year, Confidente can further

reveal that an aircraft identified as ZS-TTH entered the sovereign territory of Namibia without the required clearances on May 22 and was in contravention of Covid-19 regulations that had been published under the State of Emergency. While, Works and Transport Minister John Mutorwa has already demanded and received two reports on the incident from the NCAA leadership, no measures were taken against both the pilot as well as officials that authorised the departure of the aircraft which was supposed to be detained. The aircraft with the pilot as the only crew member landed at Walvis Bay airport on May 22 at about 9am from Cape Town to pick up a certain Hudgson Kevin Graham, a South African national, who allegedly disembarked from a boat in Walvis Bay claiming to be sick and wanted to fly to South Africa to seek medical help. An incident report seen by Confidente and penned by Regional Commander for Erongo region, Commissioner Andreas Shilumbu to Inspector General of the Namibian Police Force, Sebastian Ndeitunga pointed a finger at Richard Becker, who is not a permanent employee of NCAA but only seconded to NCAA as a senior flight operations inspector, as the person who instructed that the aircraft be released.

It is not clear where Becker got the authority to release the aircraft and why the reports submitted to Mutorwa by NCAA interim Executive Director, Reinhard Gärtner do not detail the instruction by Becker to release the aircraft. “During the same day at about 15:11, an email communication was received from a certain Mr Richard Becker of flight operations safety section of the NCAA informing this office that the aircraft has violated Namibian laws by flying into Namibia without pre-authorisation from NCAA. He further said the NCAA will further investigate the full extent of the violation to determine the penalties that could be imposed on the owner or the operator of the flight.

“According to him, they captured all necessary details of the flight and there was no further need for detention of the aircraft and its crew. The crew can thus be released to return to South Africa. According to the said email, NCAA will approach the South African Civil Aviation Authority for further assistance in processing the said violation (sic),” Nelumbu’s communiqué to Ndeitunga reads.

In the same letter, Nelumbu goes on to say: “A second letter dated 22 May 2020 regarding the same matter was received from Mr Obey James of NCAA. In this letter the

NCAA afforded leniency to the pilot and warned him verbally not to violate the Namibian aviation laws again. After the pilot was warned, the NCAA then granted him the

approval to fly back as per the letter by Mr Herman Paulino of NCAA dated May 22 2020.” Unsatisfactory incident reports The first report compiled by the NCAA executive recommended that procedures on how to deal with aircraft that enter/exit the country without authorisation must be documented and the roles of responsible parties clearly defined adding that the AIS provider should establish and implement coordination procedures with external stakeholders such as neighbouring flight information regions as well as but not limited to the Namibian Defence Forces (NDF), Namibia Airports Company (NAC) and Nampol.

Confidente is informed that Mutorwa found the report lacking and requested another report which again came with similar recommendations and no repercussions for the guilty parties. The approval process should include the office of the ED or documented delegation be given to the person signing on behalf of the Executive Director. “NCAA will proceed to assess the required steps to be taken to avoid similar occurrences over flight and landing clearances, address likely enforcement actions (as per the enforcement code as set out in government gazette no. 7100 dated 22 January 2020) and in cooperation with Ministry of Works and Transport, address the required actions on the future processing for issue and over flight and landing clearances,” reads part of the report seen by Confidente.

Mutorwa told Confidente that he was not satisfied with the reports and asked that the NCAA board whose term lapses on October 31 answer, also questioning where Becker was seconded from: “Certainly not the ministry of works and transport,” he said.

NCAA responds to allegations

Upon inquiry, NCAA moved to clarify various allegations highlighting that until further directives will be issued, they have undertaken to put in place interim measures to prevent a similar incident from happening again. “In this regard, the NCAA has submitted two technical reports on the matter which include recommendations for consideration by the Minister. These include required actions if a person was deemed responsible for such actions and how they can be held accountable,” Gärtner told Confidente further emphasising that the departure of the aircraft was authorised by the NCAA in consultation with Nampol.

With regards to Becker, Gärtner expressed that Captain Richard Becker is seconded to the NCAA with full senior inspector credentials and went to say: “As the NCAA, we engaged the aircraft owner and he has been warned about this incidence, and he has since committed to abide by the rules in future.

Without defending the incidence, it is worth noting that the incident must be seen against the background of the then prevailing state of emergency provisions.” Finally, Gärtner denied that the incident report had not gone through the board saying: “The Board of directors have shown utmost concern in this regard and has deliberated on this report with care.

So stating that the report didn’t go through them or to them is less than truthful (sic).”