Hengari escalates NWR battle

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said they have responded to a scathing lawyer’s letter sent on behalf of former NWR managing director Zelna Hengari.

13 March 2020 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT





Former Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) managing director Zelna Hengari has threatened legal action should the public enterprise and the ministers under which it resides not take the necessary steps to correct decisions made following the appointment of an “unlawful board” in 2016.

Hengari sent a letter via her legal representatives Henry Shimutwikeni & Co Inc to both environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and public enterprise minister Leon Jooste, in which she demands that steps be taken to correct the alleged unlawful appointment of the board by yesterday.

Shifeta told Namibian Sun they have responded to the letter.

“For now, we are looking into the claims being made and whether they are being investigated, and we are waiting for that feedback,” Shifeta said.

In their letter, Hengari’s lawyers said: “We have instructions to apply to the court to have the appointment of the board by the environment minister on 14 March 2016 declared unlawful and further seek to have your decision and all further decisions of the board subsequent to its appointment be declared unlawful and of no force and effect and be set aside.”

Hengari took charge of NWR in 2014, but her reign was characterised by frosty relations with directors and some staff members.

By March 2016, the environment ministry under Shifeta appointed a new board led by Leonard Iipumbu.

He initially faced accusations of protecting Hengari, but this later proved to be without substance.

Hengari’s contract was due to end on 16 July 2019, but in January she was served with a notice of non-renewal, after which she was suspended in April amid allegations that she contracted NWR into a public-private partnership with Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris without approval.

Sun Karros reportedly constructed 20 luxurious tents, a pool, restaurant and 10 campsites at NWR’s Sesriem campsite to the value of N$43 million.

According to the lawyer’s letter the appointment of the board was done unlawfully as there was no publication in the Government Gazette, as required by Section 15 (7) of the Public Enterprises Governance Act.

There was also no publication of the ministerial determinations, as is required by Section 14 (3) of the Act, Hengari claimed.

Her lawyers said their instructions are further to pursue a declaratory order from the court to the effect that by failing to cause the appointment of the board to be gazetted, the ministers failed their constitutional oaths of office, as prescribed by the Namibian Constitution.

“Our instructions are that given the above-mentioned unlawful appointment of the board, the subsequent decisions of the board are by extension also unlawful, which include the decisions affecting our client.”

According to the letter, Hengari challenged the non-renewal of her contract on 9 January at the Office of the Labour Commissioner and the matter is still ongoing.

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