Disgruntled Gobabis residents to petition Minister Uutoni

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The community of Gobabis is set to present a petition to the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Erastus Uutoni, voicing their discontent over recent developments within the municipality.

Led by community activist Veronia Mokaleng-Kuzeeko, residents are scheduled to gather at the Government Office Park today to deliver their petition.

The petition follows dissatisfaction among the council’s management and community members regarding recent decisions that include salary adjustments for municipality employees made by the Gobabis Municipal Council.

Despite objections raised by residents, the municipality proceeded with salary adjustments for its employees without proper consultation or authorisation, sparking controversy and exacerbating tensions within the community.

“We hereby request your Honorable office to kindly confirm your availability,” stated Mokaleng-Kuzeeko in the letter to Uutoni, emphasising the community’s determination to address their grievances directly with the Ministry.

The decision to petition the Minister comes in response to the municipality’s contentious move to proceed with salary adjustments for its employees without proper consultation or authorization. This decision, made amidst financial struggles and mounting debts, has stirred controversy within the community and heightened tensions.

In an open letter addressed to Uutoni last week by former mayor Elvire Theron and Management Committee (MC) member Isak de Beer alleged a breach of protocol, including the unauthorised negotiation and signing of a salary agreement with the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU) by the municipality’s Chief Executive Officer, Sophia Eises.

The letter highlighted that the decision was made without proper authorisation, igniting a fierce debate within the council chambers.

“The outcome of the negotiation between NAPWU and the Gobabis Municipal representatives was at no point in time, tabled at any MC meeting nor was it recommended to the Council for its deliberation and approval,” read the letter.

Despite the MC’s rejection of the proposed salary adjustment Eises reportedly proceeded to enter into a settlement agreement with NAPWU, further exacerbating tensions within the council.

Uutoni had not responded to queries sent to him and calls made to him remained unfruitful by the time of going to print.

According to an internal source at the municipality who preferred anonymity, after the special meeting, the council has concluded to implement the alleged salary increase, backdated for approximately 12 months

According to financial submissions by Eises this month, the council is facing a total expenditure for salaries, including March 2024, of N$5.5 million. However, available funds in the operational account amount to only N$2.4 million, insufficient to cover salaries and mandatory expenses such as NamWater and Nampower bills.

Efforts to reach Eises on the matter have thus far been unsuccessful.

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