‘Suspended Wambos’ sue Gobabis municipality

Six senior Oshiwambo-speaking municipality employees say their suspensions at varying times from their jobs is part of an orchestrated tribally and politically motivated purge.

10 September 2021 | Local News

STAFF REPORTER







WINDHOEK

A string of alleged political and tribal purges has been blamed for the recent spate of suspensions of senior officials at the Gobabis municipality.

This is despite political parties giving assurances after last year’s local authority elections – where the opposition toppled the ruling party Swapo from many municipalities – that those who were defeated would not be marginalised.

The difference this time around is that it is now perceived Swapo technocrats at the municipality claiming to be on the receiving end of a political campaign aimed at eliminating them.

This after a group of senior employees from the Gobabis municipality dragged their employer to court after they were suspended from their jobs.

The group of six are demanding to be reinstated, saying they have been victimised.

The group includes finance executive Filemon Makili, corporate executive Frieda Shimakeleni, IT officer Kondjeni Nghiwanapo, IT technician Paul Kayambu, acting corporate services and human resources practitioner Ashipala Kayambu and electrical services manager Johannes Nantuua.

They were suspended on different dates between May and August this year.

The group, represented by defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, gave notice in the High Court yesterday about their intention to fight for their reinstatement.

“A number of employees who are considered to be members of Swapo Party or members of tribes not considered to have originated from the Omaheke Region, and Gobabis in particular, largely Oshiwambo-speaking, faced a campaign of victimisation by the late CEO, Mr [Ignatius] Thudinyane,” Makili said in an affidavit.

He also labelled the suspensions as “coercive in nature”.

Dubious

While Makili claims their suspensions will have an adverse impact on service delivery, residents at the town have for years blasted the municipality for failing to deliver municipal services and ignoring the pleas of the residents.

The municipality has also been rocked by countless corruption claims related to dubious tender awards and nepotism.

A municipal insider who spoke to Namibian Sun said “the suspended guys are crying crocodile tears because they can no longer do as they please”.

“Ask anyone in the town, most of them have been running the affairs of the municipality as if it is their home. The lack of development and service delivery speaks volumes about their work,” the source said.

Makili added: “The situation became worse after the local authority elections during November 2020 when the majority of councillors from [the] Gobabis Ratepayers Association, National Unity Democratic Movement, Landless People’s Movement and Popular Democratic Movement by majority took over the Gobabis town council and management committee.”

He also took issue with the manner in which the suspensions were affected, saying that it was unlawful and politically motivated.

“It is important to state that the applicants, targeted through unlawful suspensions, are all from one tribe. Furthermore, Gobabis being a small town, the applicants are known to be members of the ruling party.

“It is very clear, given the fact that no valid, rational and cogent reasons were given for the unlawful suspensions and the manner in which the suspensions were carried out, taking into account the background, that the suspensions are politically motivated and are, as a matter of fact, a campaign of victimisation and persecution of the applicants,” Makili said.

Corruption instead of development

Thudinyane had in June 2019 released a report pointing to allegations that highly paid executives at the town were incompetent, disregarded him, lacked leadership skills, and have failed to detect the loss of millions.

Reacting to the court battle, one of the community leaders in Gobabis, Wallace Finnies, told Namibian Sun during a telephonic interview yesterday that the boardroom fights are detrimental to the lives of town residents.

“We are already underdeveloped, our squatter camps are bigger than the town and basic services are a pipe dream, yet we have leaders fighting instead of addressing the challenges.

“It is our hope that they will put aside the political differences and resolve this out of court,” he said.

Finnies further quipped that “our people are despondent and promised not to vote again because all they get out of elections is corruption instead of development”.

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