Minister of Youth, Sport and National Service Agnes Tjongarero had until today to retract her grounds of firing five board members of the Namibia Sports Commission as demanded by their lawyer Norman Tjombe, who claims that the manner in which his clients were relieved of their duties was embarrassing and defaming.
Tjombe demanded that the minister publicly retract the reasons for the removal of his clients as NSC commissioners, and tender a written unreserved apology not later than the close of business today. However, the board members have indicated their unwillingness to be reinstated or appointed to serve as NSC commissioners again.
“Considering that the remaining portion of our clients’ tenure is short, our clients instructed us to inform you that they are not interested in being reinstated as Commissioners of the Namibia Sports Commission. However, our clients are not able to leave the matter unattended as it has a profound impact on their reputations as professional persons beyond the Namibia Sports Commission [sic],” said lawyer Tjombe, from Tjombe and Elago Incorporation in a letter addressed to Tjongarero on Tuesday.
This comes after Tjongarero fired board members, Joel Matheus, Linda Dumba-Chicalu, Karen Mubonenwa, Thomas Mbeeli and Niklaus Nghumono, for alleged insubordination by defying a directive not to renew the commission’s chief administrator’s contract, Freddy Mwiya, as well as refusing to advertise the position. They were sacked on May 24, while the contract of three were supposed to end on 13 June.
Another reason provided by the minister for their axing was the board’s decision to increase Mwiya’s salary, against the wishes of the minister.
The salary was adjusted to N$1 229 503 per annum, despite remuneration guidelines and the classification of SOEs stating that the total package of the chief administrator cannot exceed N$900 000 per year, argued Tjongarero then.
“The purpose of the decision to remove our clients was to embarrass and defame them. Expressly and through innuendos, the impression is created that our clients have violated the law, cannot be trusted, incompetent, insubordinate, and dishonest, hence their removal. We have demonstrated that the basis of our clients’ removal on those grounds is legally untenable, and therefore unlawful [sic],” argued the veteran human rights lawyer.
The Sports Minister based her decision on section 7(2)(b) of the Namibia Sports Act, Act 12 of 2003, in that they [board members] have failed to comply with or contravened provisions of the Namibia Sports Act.
Meanwhile, Tjombe pointed that, “the Commission resolved to renew the appointment of the Chief Administrator, as contemplated in section 23(8) of the Namibia Sports Act, and submitted the recommendation to you. In terms of section 23(1) of the Namibia Sports Act, once a recommendation for the appointment of the Chief Administrator is submitted to you, you must appoint.”
He continued: “in the purported amplification of the grounds of removal of our clients as Commissioners, you referred to the Commission’s “inability” to comply with requests emanating from the appointing authority in relation to the unauthorised increase of the salary of the Chief Administrator, and that the Commission ignored the directive to reverse the increase in the salary. As we stated above, our clients’ contention was always that, in terms of section 23(1) of the Namibia Sports Act, the Minister has no discretion to accept or reject a recommendation to appoint a Chief Administrator. Section 23(1) reads as follows: the Minister must appoint a person as Chief Administrator of the Commission on the recommendation of the Commission.”
Meanwhile, the contractual employment of Mwiya remains the subject of a court battle, as the minister refused to endorse his appointment for another five-year term, despite the recommendation from the board. Mwiya’s contract came to end on 31 March, but he subsequently approached the courts to challenge Tjongarero’s decision not to renew his contract despite a recommendation from the board.
After Mwiya sought a court interdict, the two parties [Mwiya and Tjongarero] a reached an out of court temporary agreement last Friday that he [Mwiya] will remain the Chief Administrator until such a time the court pronounces itself; and that the matter will not be heard on an urgent basis.
Efforts to get comment from Tjongarero proved futile as her phone went unanswered, neither did she respond to a text messages sent to her.