Thursday, March 4, 2021

Namibia, Botswana square off over Mozambique plane crash

Botswana civil aviation authorities on Friday rebuffed charges by their Namibian counterparts that they should have alerted them prior to the crash of the Mozambique plane that killed more than 33 passengers onboard. Responding to accusations by Namibian authorities that they never informed them despite the fact that the plane was lost while still in Botswana’s air space Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) said they are not obliged to contact Namibian authorities.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, CAAB Public Affairs Manager, Modipe Nkwe said the best they could do was to contact their counterparts in Angola. He explained that they were not supposed to contact their counterparts in Namibia because the two neighbouring countries do not share air space. “In terms of airspace, we share it with Angola and that is why we contacted them to find out if they were able to talk to the pilot. Above 145000 feet is in our control.

The air space at the Caprivl airstrip of Namibia has been delegated to us for control and monitoring purposes. In other words Namibia has delegated that to us,” he said. Nkwe added that they were coordinating the monitoring of the plane with their Angolan counterparts. He said the pilot didn’t inform them that the plane was experiencing problems. Nkwe said they informed their Angolan counterparts that they could see the plane but were unable to communicate with the pilot. “The plane started to descend around Seronga village heading in the direction of Mohembo village at a very fast rate. We saw it descending but we were unable to communicate with the pilot,” he said. Nkwe also denied reports that the plane got lost while in Botswana saying it was not lost.

“The plane was not lost, if it had been lost we would not have contacted Angola,” he explained. Chief Air Traffic Controller in the Ministry of Works and Transport’s Directorate of Civil Aviation, Victor Likando fell short of blaming the CAAB for failing to monitor the accident as it unfolded and losing track of the aircraft. While he acknowledged that there are some safety concerns regarding Botswana air space, Nkwe defended the standards of Botswana skies saying they are some of the safest in world. “It is not true that our air space is dangerous.

It is also not true that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (IACO) has blacklisted us, they only noted safety concerns and not blacklisted us,” he said. While he decline to respond to Sunday Standard questions, referring queries to Namibian Directorate of Civil Aviation Director France Uirab, Likando is quoted as saying that it took them a long time to locate the wreckage because they were not informed by their Botswana counterparts on time since the plane was lost while still in Gaborone air space.

“Botswana never told us. Whatever led to Botswana not telling us, they should tell us,” he is quoted as saying adding that his country’s works ministry had to call Gaborone and Luanda offices to check whether they had lost track of an aircraft.

Likando further said the accident happened in the Gaborone air space even though on land it was in Namibia. It was for this reason, he added, that the crew had no need to contact any Namibian airport since it takes any plane, flying that route, three minutes to pass through Namibia into Angola.

Contact with Namibian airport authorities, Likando explained, can only be made in case of an emergency but this was not done. According to Likando, Gaborone was supposed to contact Angola to take over the plane’s frequency monitoring but the accident happened just a minute into Namibian territory, adding that the problems of the plane started while in Botswana’s air space.

Sunday Standard understands that officials from Directorate of Accident Investigations under Botswana’s Ministry of Works and Communications are in Namibia as part of a team that is conducting investigations into the plane crash. Namibian Directorate of Civil Aviation Director France Uirab conformed that some officials from Botswana were in Namibia to assist in the investigations.

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