Pretoria - Hopes are up that Wonderboom Airport will once again run smoothly after the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, suspended the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting as the City of Tshwane’s transaction adviser for the facility.
Judge Natvarlil Ranchod ordered the City to appoint a properly qualified airport manager within 15 days. The manager has to run the entire operational functions of the airport.
This follows an urgent application launched last week by the Wonderboom Interest Group, which represents businesses at the airport, as well as people connected to the aviation industry.
The interim order will remain in place pending a later application in which the group will ask the court to review and set aside the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting.
The City will, meanwhile, in light of the review application, have to submit all documentation to the group regarding how it reached the decision to appoint Ntiyiso Consulting in the first place.
Christian Maiorana, chairperson of the group, welcomed the interim order and expressed his hope that this will lead to the smooth running of the airport. “We are hoping that the City is now willing to work with us.”
Maiorana added that all they wanted from the start was to ensure the smooth running of the airport, which was an icon in the City.
But the court was told that in light of the dream to obtain international status for Wonderboom Airport, there were fears that if managed by the wrong people the dream would not be realised.
Once classified as a Category 5 Airport, Wonderboom was downgraded by the Civil Aviation Authority to Category 2.
On the day the airport was downgraded, outgoing mayor, Stevens Mokgalapa, with then MMC for roads and transport Sheila Senkubunge (who were embroiled in an alleged sex scandal) said the airport would be commercialised.
Ntiyiso Consulting was appointed as a “transaction facilitator” for the airport. It in turn outsourced the running of the airport.
The group’s main objection to Ntiyiso's appointment was that it did not have the expertise to run an airport and that the decision was taken without following a proper public participation process.
Judge Ranchod was also told that the City, in terms of its by-laws, was not allowed to outsource the management of the airport.
The airport was run by the City itself while classified as a Category 5 airport . The group said the problems about the management started in 2017, when the then municipal manager removed the running of the airport from the City’s roads and transport department.
As an emergency measure it outsourced it to Professional Aviation Services .
The company managed the airport on behalf of the City and its contract was renewed from time to time at great expense to the ratepayers.
It withdrew its services at the end of last year.
Ntiyiso Consulting was tasked to take over this month as an emergency measure.
The group said while the City had its own experts to run the airport, things simply went from bad to worse while the management was outsourced. “Without proper management there is no maintenance and enforcement of aviation processes. It will lead to accidents,” it said.
It further stated that the shutting down of the airport on short notice had a devastating effect on employees.
Judge Ranchod said the state of affairs caused employees irreparable harm. “The balance of convenience clearly favours the applicant.”
He said there would be no prejudice to the City if he granted the interim order, adding that he did not need to make a finding on all the other arguments, as these would be canvassed during the review application.