Court deals Hindjou and others a blow

08 June 2021 | Government

MARC SPRINGER

WINDHOEK

Seven former members of the Okahandja town council, who sought to have their suspensions last year overturned and be reinstated in their positions, failed in their bid after a High Court ruling last week.

Their legal defeat follows from a judgment delivered by acting Judge Kobus Miller on Friday.

In that ruling, the judge concluded that the applicants had no locus standi to institute the proceedings, since their suspension on 16 March 2020 divested them of all powers, functions and duties they had in their capacity as members of the council.

As such, they had no authority to institute a lawsuit for or on behalf of the council they were no longer members of. Instead, the judge argued that the plaintiffs should have brought their application in their personal capacity.

With that conclusion, the judge upheld a point raised by the former minister of urban and rural development, Peya Mushelenga, and dismissed the application.

Mushelenga had ordered the suspension of Johannes Hindjou, Hileni Iita, Gideon Uwu-Khaeb, Helmi Maruru, Sophia Upithe (all Swapo), Frederick Shimanda (UDF) and Sylvia Karuombe (PDM), saying they were not equipped for the task they were entrusted with.

This, he stated, was evidenced by the fact they disregarded existing regulations, lacked transparency in their decision-making and handled municipal funds in a careless fashion.

He appointed one of his officials, Linus //Garo√ęb, to attend to the affairs of the council in an acting capacity.

We're not at fault

The suspended council members protested against the decision, arguing they only took office in December 2015 and were being punished for the failings of their predecessors. This, they claimed, was apparent from an investigation launched by the ministry which concluded that the former council had authorised questionable land deals, neglected to collect outstanding debts for municipal services, sold property belonging to the city illegally and had lost control of municipal finances.

Because of that, the applicants continued, they requested the ministry's assistance in correcting the alleged maladministration and made significant progress in addressing the situation. As a result of their efforts, a new finance management system was implemented and outstanding debt owed by residents of the town were brought down significantly.

Furthermore, they point out that a three-year moratorium was placed on all land sales in Okahandja, thereby preventing a continuation of the alleged chaos prevailing before.

In addition, the applicants pointed out that an independent consultant had confirmed the improvements made in correcting the alleged mismanagement.

The applicants were represented by Silas-Kishi Shakumu from Kishi Shakumu & Co. Inc., while respondents were represented by Chipo Machaka from the office of the government attorney.