Wonderboom officials can run airport themselves, says judge

Court suspends consulting firm’s appointment.

The very appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting, be it for advisory and investigative purposes or the enabling of it to appoint external contractors, is unlawful – Judge J Ranchod.

The absurd decisions of the Tshwane Metro to disregard its own highly qualified, experienced officials to benefit private contracted service providers at the city’s Wonderboom National Airport have finally been stopped in their tracks by the high court.

On 12 February Judge J Ranchod granted the Wonderboom Airport Interest Group (WAIG) an interim interdict against Tshwane, suspending the appointment of Ntiyiso Consulting (Pty) Ltd with immediate affect.

The judge also ordered the metro municipality to appoint, within 15 days, a properly qualified airport manager to run the entire operational function.

In August last year Noseweek revealed that Wonderboom was falling apart since the DA-led Tshwane municipality, licence holder of the airport, had appointed a private company, Professional Aviation Services (PAS) in 2017 to run the airport. The city’s once-proud asset, previously managed perfectly well by its own employees, has since been downgraded as a result of mismanagement.

Despite PAS’s disastrous management, Tshwane extended the company’s one-year contract to run the airport by eight months, and then another six months, each time dispensing with normal procurement procedures. On top of it all, Tshwane raised PAS’s fees from under R300,000 to more than R800,000 per month.

PAS resigned, to be replaced by Ntiyiso Consulting, which had no experience in aviation or running an airport. The appointment was announced at a news conference held by the now disgraced MMC Sheila Senkubuge and Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa who has since resigned.

It was reported that Ntiyiso would be paid around R2 million per month. The company took over at the end of December. By then WAIG had had enough and took legal action to try to save their businesses at the airport. True to its management style, the municipality repeatedly ignored all WAIG’s correspondence and requests for meetings, leaving the tenants with no alternative but to ask the high court to rectify the disastrous and unsafe environment at Wonderboom.

The court agreed that WAIG had an urgent case to be heard and that the officials at Wonderboom were more than capable of managing the airport themselves. The interim order instructed the municipality to manage the airport without external service providers. They had to report back to the court within 15 days.

Ian Melamed, the current airport manager who was hastily appointed by Ntiyiso Consulting in January, told Noseweek after the judgment that he actually agreed with WAIG and with the court’s findings. He said he had received great support from the knowledgeable but disem-
powered municipal officials stationed at Wonderboom.

“Hendrik Kleynhans, the municipal employee who had managed Wonderboom before the intervention began in 2017 did a great job. Not anyone can take an airport from a Category 2 to a Category 5 airport, which he did,” Melamed said.

Under Kleynhans’s management SA Airlink had instituted scheduled flights between Pretoria and Cape Town, only for them to be suspended a year later when Wonderboom started deteriorating to the point that even aviation fuel was no longer available.
Noseweek reported last year that aircraft owners had to order and then transport dangerous aviation fuel in bakkies and trailers from tankers parked in a dusty area on the side of the road some kilometres away from Wonderboom.

WAIG’s chairman Christian Maiorana told Noseweek that the current situation was solely a result of political interference for personal interest and gain, which influenced senior managers to disregard proper procedures with the appointments of both PAS and Nyitiso Consulting. Tshwane strongman Nava Pillay was instrumental in the unlawful appointments.

As Noseweek went to press, we learned that the Tshwane Metro is planning to take the court’s interim order on appeal.

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