Lawyers representing the recently ousted Okahandja councillors demand their immediate reinstatement or the incoming Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Erastus Uutoni, will face a further legal challenge.
The entire municipal council was ousted at the behest of the former Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Peya Mushelenga, just a little over two weeks ago.
The grounds for the removal of the local leadership included allegations of mismanagement and failure to comply with ministerial directives, as well as the non-submission of minutes of the proceedings of the council.
The Okahandja town council has been under increasing pressure to resign based on a range of allegations, including non-performance, mismanagement and other reasons.
The ball is now squarely at the feet of newly appointed minister Erastus Uutoni and he has only until next week Wednesday to deal with the matter. In a letter issued by law firm Kishi Shakumu & Co Inc yesterday, the lawyers made out that the ouster is illegal and undemocratic.
“Councillors are freely and democratically elected by the masses and the minister cannot be allowed at will and pleasure, to determine the tenure of councillors.
“The minister should also not be allowed to wrongfully and unlawfully topple a legitimately elected council under the false pretenses (sic) that they have violated the law,” the statement reads.
“Such conduct is unlawful and frowned upon in a democratic society guided by the laws of this land. Unless it is challenged, the future generations of councillors will face the same fate.”
The seven ousted councillors include mayor Johannes Congo Hindjou, his deputy Hileni Iita, chairperson of the management committee Gideon Uwu-Khaeb, and members of the management committee, Helmi Maruru, Sophia Upithe and opposition councillors Frederick Shimanda of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and Sylvia Karuombe of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM).
“Should you not comply with this demand, we hold strict instructions to being an application next week to compel the Honourable Minister to do so at your ministry’s cost,” the letter reads.
Following the dissolution of the council, Mushelenga appointed an official from the ministry of urban and rural development, Linus //Garoëb, to implement the directives of the minister at the council.
//Garoëb assumed duty with immediate effect and is supported by management, led by the chief executive officer, whom he is also under instruction to investigate.
At the time of the ouster, Mushelenga said the perennial infighting at Okahandja is indicative of a failure of leadership, as well as a lack of teamwork within the governing council and between the councillors and management.
The litany of allegations against the councillors include apparent mismanagement and lack of accountability for public resources, including revenue related to services rendered by bulk utility providers such as NamWater and NamPower.
Ousted mayor Hindjou, this week criticised the minister’s action calling it arbitrary and inconsistent with the law as it stands.