The long-drawn-out saga of the appointment of a new City of Windhoek CEO is about to come to an end with the imminent appointment of Roads Authority chief executive officer Conrad Lutombi.
The appointment is now possible after the new management committee (MC) overturned its predecessor’s decision to restart the recruitment process, citing an avalanche of irregularities.
The city will also appoint a strategic executive for economic development.
Documents seen by New Era show that the wheels to expedite the CEO’s recruitment were set in motion by Affirmative Repositioning (AR) councillor Job Amupanda through a petition to the new MC on 29 August 2022. He described the appointment as an urgent matter that has been unresolved for close to one year.
“The failure to conclude this matter has created a lot of instability within council, and has led to residents to form an opinion that we cannot govern,” Amupanda wrote to the Ilse Keister-chaired MC.
Soon after taking charge, Keister made it clear that the appointment of a substantive CEO would enjoy their heightened
In essence, Amupanda’s petition sought to overturn a decision by the previous MC to restart the process.
He had his way, after the MC recommended to council that “the outcome of the successful candidates as recommended by the interview panels for both the recruitment and selection of the chief executive officer and strategic executive: economic development and community services, be approved.”
The ball is now in council’s hands when it sits tonight to decide the city’s fate as far as the two executive posts are concerned.
Presently, Windhoek is run by a silent coalition formed between the AR, Swapo, the Popular Democratic Movement,
Landless People’s Movement and National Unity Democratic Organisation.
The Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), which until recently was firm in its resolve to start the process afresh, is now in the opposition benches with four councillors out of the 15-member council.
It is Amupanda’s position that the previous MC misdirected itself, and their reasons not to recruit were purely political.
“The grounds relied upon to achieve political objectives by stalling the recruitment are frivolous, and do not pass any test to form the basis of the legal grounds it purports to stand on,” said the AR leader.
Efforts to get hold of Amupanda yesterday were futile. Windhoek has been without a substantive CEO since the departure of Robert Kahimise in August 2020.
Candidates shortlisted for the strategic executive for economic development and community services’ position are Zurilia Steenkamp (acting), Mary-Anne Kahitu, Leslie Puriza and James Kalundu.
Former MC chairperson Ndeshihafela Larandja finds Amupanda’s sudden change of heart strange.
How he now endorses the same process he claimed was immersed in corruption is baffling, she added. She said a forensic investigation ought to have taken place, following Amupanda’s alleged corruption claims in the recruitment of the CEO.
Amupanda, it is said, also threatened to approach the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the matter.
“The author [Amupanda] of the petition alleged that there was corruption. Those corruption allegations have not been cleared. Does it then mean that his petition now invalidates those claims?” Larandja asked.
She also found it amiss that Keister, who takes instructions at the AR headquarters from Amupanda, the movement’s chief-activist, never recused herself from the meeting which reviewed and resolved to set aside the previous MC’s decision.
“That is conflict of interest. It was rather
a directive [from Amupanda to Keister through the MC] rather than a resolution,” she theorised.
Before it was toppled, the IPC-controlled
MC premised its objections to the
recruitment of the city’s top executives on three reasons. Human resources executive George Mayumbelo’s presence on both the shortlisting and selection committees was highlighted
by members of the city’s former MC as a red flag. Another reason advanced is that the number of applicants to the coveted CEO position did not tally, as initial records showed that 68 candidates [among them two audacious grade 12 holders] applied to run the biggest municipality in the land. That figure later dropped to 61.
The third justification was that candidates were not shortlisted by using the same requirements specified in the advertisement.
In July, New Era reported that Mayumbelo, who steered the recruitment process, allegedly scored Lutombi, an alleged associate of his, 100% from the 16 questions posed to candidates.
This was seen as an unprecedented feat by human resources’ experts, some of whom formed part of the interviewing panel.
Internal sources argued Mayumbelo was not supposed to come anywhere close to the interviewing panel as he also formed part of the shortlisting committee.
He denied any wrongdoing, while maintaining that his relationship with Lutombi is a professional one, as is the case with other executives in the public and private sectors. In total, Lutombi garnered 460 points in the structured interview out of a possible 560.
The other candidates were Joyce Mukubi, who is the deputy executive director for administration in the Ministry of Works
and Transport; Otjiwarongo municipality CEO Moses Matyayi; researcher and entrepreneur Charmill Zamuee; and NamWater executive Eino Mvula.
The new MC – composed mainly of Swapo, LPM, PDM and AR councillors – does not buy into the justifications advanced by their immediate predecessor.
According to the new MC, there was
no contravention when Mayumbelo participated in the shortlisting committee.
“The regulation refers to (a) staff member
of the human resources department. It is duly noted that Mayumbelo was and remains a
staff member of the department of human capital and corporate services. No contravention was noted, nor evidence contrary to the findings provided,” read a portion of documentary evidence obtained by the paper. The second reason, too, was thrown out of the window.
“It had been noted that the discrepancy in the number of candidates was a typing error which appeared on the item/submission,” the MC said. Moreover, there was nothing sinister in the shortlisting process when juxtaposed against the requirements placed on the advert.
In July, Lutombi served the city with an ultimatum, demanding interview scorecards and an explaination why they failed to inform the unsuccessful candidates about the interview outcome, which is a standard procedure.
The new MC’s recommendation comes at a time when Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas was advised that the new committee’s foundation was laid on unstable grounds.
This is because the previous MC was voted out through a motion of no confidence, despite the fact that the city's acting CEO O’Brien Hekandjo assured the court that no vote was going to take place. In law, Hekandjo is said to have misled the high court in a sworn statement. “This MC reviewed and set aside a decision of an administrative body, which is the MC. This is while decisions of administrative bodies can only be done by the judiciary, which are the courts… the MC remains unlawful, and we have appealed that,” Larandja noted. Whether or not the MC’s decisions and recommendations are legally binding remains to be seen.