THE Wonderboom Airport Interest Group has asked the High Court to direct the City to appoint a properly qualified manager to run the facility.     Jacques Naude  African News Agency (ANA)
THE Wonderboom Airport Interest Group has asked the High Court to direct the City to appoint a properly qualified manager to run the facility. Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

‘Tshwane's Wonderboom Airport has gone to dogs’

By ZELDA VENTER Time of article published Feb 5, 2020

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Pretoria - From a dream of obtaining international status for Wonderboom Airport, there are now fears that if managed by the wrong people it will lead to life-threatening situations.

This is the story of the City of Tshwane-owned airport, which has since been downgraded by the Civil Aviation Authority from a category 5 to 2.

Fears are mounting that the airport will never revert to its previous status if the court does not urgently intervene, the Wonderboom Airport Interest Group said in papers before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

The interest group urgently turned to court to suspend the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting to take over the running of the airport.

The applicant claimed that the company had no experience in the aviation industry, let alone the management of an airport. It will ask the court to direct the City to appoint a “properly qualified airport manager” to run the operations or alternatively redeploy former airport manager Hendrik Kleynhans.

The applicant indicated that it would later launch a review application to set aside the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting, but it wanted the court to urgently intervene at this stage.

Pending the review application, the group also wants the City to be ordered to deliver a monthly report on the proper running of the airport.

Christian Maiorana, chairperson of the applicant’s board, stated that the matter was urgent because as things stood, the airport was effectively without proper management.

The group frowned upon the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting by the City of Tshwane and what it described as the “unlawful” process followed to appoint an external service provider.

All this was done, it said, not only to the detriment of the financial viability of the airport, but also at great expense to ratepayers.

“Without proper management there is no maintenance and enforcement of aviation processes. It will lead to accidents. There is also no proper firefighting service in place, which carries a threat at any airport.”

Maiorana said the list of harms was growing, including that the lights on the runway were not being maintained. The grass adjacent to the landing strip was unkempt up to about a week ago, when it was mowed by the City. It posed a fire danger as fuel had to be carried to aircraft on an informal basis.

On the day the airport was downgraded, outgoing mayor Stevens Mokgalapa, with then MMC for roads and transport Sheila Senkubunge (both who were embroiled in an alleged sex scandal) announced the airport would be commercialised.

Ntiyiso Consulting was appointed as a “transaction facilitator” for the airport.

Prior to this appointment the City on several occasions extended the services of privately-owned company Professional Aviation Services to manage the airport on its behalf.

Meanwhile, the entity indicated that it withdrew from the airport as of February 1. It was under it that the airport was downgraded.

The applicant said it was concerned about the City’s “unlawful” appointment of the new company, as the City is capable of doing the work itself.

It said the City simply failed to carry out its mandate in administering the airport.

In 2000 it gave a concession to Pretoria International Airport Corporation to manage the airport, but owing to complaints the contract was cancelled three years later.

The City then decided to manage it and seconded Kleynhans and a team of five officials to do the work. The progress was substantial and it was uplifted from a category 3 to 5 airport.

During the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the City invested R150 million to prepare for an increase in air traffic. “The honeymoon period did not last, as the City’s officials, not being the management team at the airport, decided to interfere with its smooth running.”

The applicant said the City replaced the reputable BP fuel supplier with “middlemen”. This caused substandard fuel being delivered or no fuel at times.

Things went downhill from there, it is claimed, and Kleynhans first, then the City’s roads and transport department, were ousted from managing the affairs.

Solly Msimanga, when he was mayor, tasked the city manager to take over and this was the start of external contractors being appointed to manage the airport.

Due to the alleged mismanagement of the airport, Airlink in 2018 withdrew from using it. The airline had been running flights between Pretoria and Cape Town.

The applicant said that as things now stood, it was difficult to know “who the captain of the ship is” - and things could not continue like this.

The City, meanwhile, only filed a notice to oppose the application. However, it had not filed an affidavit by late yesterday afternoon.

The matter stood down to today for counsel to get instructions from the City regarding the way forward.

Pretoria News

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