TUJOROMAJO KASUTO

THE Gobabis municipality has started controversially rebuilding its leadership structure after it was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past few weeks.

Three of the council’s top executives died one after another over the past few weeks, starting with the Chairperson of the Management Committee, Dewaal Louw. Louw who represented the Gobabis Residents Association (GRA) after his election on the council in the 2020 Regional and Local Authority Elections, succumbed to Covid-19 on 9 June. He was followed by the council’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ignatius Thudinyane, and the Strategic Executive for Economic Development, Patrick Mbala, who died on Friday.

This has left the Omaheke capital’s council, Gobabis, situated east of Windhoek, in a state of disarray. In an effort to fill the vacant positions, the council appointed Gehard Jacobs, a member of the Gobabis Residents Association (GRA), as a member of the council to replace Louw. However Jacobs’ appointment appears to be dogged by controversy as insiders at the municipality claim that Jacobs has not been gazetted as is required by the law. In addition, insiders claim that the council did not have a quorum to make the Jacobs’ appointment valid.

“All Swapo councillors were not present at the meeting,” confides a source. The Gobabis council comprises seven members, three councilors from Swapo and four from the opposition parties. Only three councilors from the opposition parties attended the meeting at which Jacobs was appointed.

To make matters worse, the town’s Corporate Services and Human Resources Manager, Frieda Shimakeleni, is still on suspension. The council has appointed Steve Antionio as the Acting CEO, replacing the late Thudinyane.

This appointment is also marred by controversy in that Antionio is a junior and not a Strategic Executive, amid claims of mistrust within top council executives.

Louw had publicly stated in May his intention to seek clarity from Thudinyane, over payments of N$6 million to the Ewi Technical Civil Construction without council approval. Thudinyane, who had been CEO since 2018, died after a short illness on 3 July. The irregular payments were revealed in an audit report conducted by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development (MURD). “The council paid N$6 million (53 percent) instead of N$2.2 million in advance payments to Ewi Technical Civil Construction CC,” the audit report reads.

Ewi Technical Civil Construction, owned by Salomo Joram, and his Chinese business partner, Gongwen Xi, was awarded a road construction tender worth N$11,2 million despite allegedly having submitted a fake bank guarantee.

Meanwhile, investigations into Shimakeleni’s conduct are ongoing. Media reports have stated that she was suspended in May this year by Thudinyane, after she had been asked to clarify some issues raised in the audit report by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.