Business rejects new NCCI leadership

…vows to start rival organisation

By Hilary Mare

DISGRUNTLED prominent businesspeople have rejected the new leadership of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) leadership saying that they refuse to be led by people who are not active in business as they do not relate to their needs, Confidente can exclusively reveal.

Confidente understands a large contingent,consisting of prominent businesspeople from across the country as well as leaders of Shebeen owners and Hawkers associations, is also fed up of the lack of reform within the NCCI and is keen to kick-start a new organisation that will better represent their interests and not led by employees of parastatals and selected few corporates.

Late last year, NCCI elected new leaders in which Namibia Airports Company (NAC) Chief Executive Officer, Bisey Uirab was installed as president while Ian Collard of Namib Mills and NamibRe Managing Director, Patty Karuaihe-Martin are now first and second vice president respectively.

Additional members serving as directors include Nedbank MD Martha Murorua, Nampower MD SimsonHaulofu, Roads Authority CEO Conrad Lutombi and NDTC CEO Brent Eiseb among others.

Speaking on behalf of the business community which has lost confidence in the NCCI national leadership, businessman and chairperson of the NCCI Windhoek branch, Martin Kaali Shipanga said that over the years there have been calls from active business people to reform the chamber so that it can become a true representative voice for all businesses in Namibia but this has been to no avail.

“It seems like this call has not been taken on board by both the administrators and those elected into the national leadership to represent business due to the fact that there some corporates and parastatals that are hell bent to maintain the status quo. We are informed that they made constitutional amendments that ensure that they continue to lead the business community.

“As such, a very good number of active businesses have ceased to be members of the chamber and those that remained have informed us that they are not being represented effectively,” he said.

Shipanga then confirmed that business people, specifically from the north, Windhoek, Otjiwarongo, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay came together and unanimously agreed that they cannot accept the new NCCI leadership, adding that given the situation that NCCI was not moving in the direction of equitable representation of businesses under the chamber, a unanimous decision was also taken by business people to start working on a structure of a new organisation that will be representative of active businesses in Namibia.

“The work to commence this organisation has already started. We are confident that this will be a true representative of the business community which will be led by business people who can relate to the needs of other businesses. We are keen to work and collaborate with government to drive the economy and contribute to national development.

“We do not have the energy to try and reform an organisation (NCCI) that does not want to be reformed,” Shipanga further stated.

Confidente has been reliably informed that the process of drafting a constitution is underway after which an Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be called to select the leaders of the splinter group.

Speaking to Confidente this week, former NCCI chairperson for Ongwediva, Veikko Haimbodi said that NCCI had failed to hear the voice of the business community that has vehemently suffered due to the implications of Covid-19.

“People are frustrated because of the economy that has been affected by the pandemic. We have tried to convey our concerns to the national leadership to help but we are getting no help at all. People are losing their jobs and we are sinking deeper in debt because NCCI is not doing anything to try and assist businesses in these trying times,” he said.

Echoing the same sentiments, chairperson of the NCCI Otjiwarongo branch, Eddie Kgobetsi said that their branch had lost confidence in the national leadership that seemingly has failed in its mandate.

“I did not attend that latest AGM mainly because I was not invited. I got a call a day before informing me that there was an AGM that I had no knowledge of. The problem with the current leadership is that they take things personally. We as branch chairpersons are serving on a voluntary basis but when we have queries or ask questions it becomes a personal issue against us. Two years ago we wanted to clarify some issues and it has ended up as a personal issue against me as a person and that is why we have been castigated,” he highlighted adding that there is a need to exploit all avenues that can help bring a body that can truly represent the interests of the business community.

Confidente also understands that a large number of business are unhappy that the NCCI has failed to advocate for better measures to keep businesses operational during the pandemic arguing that regulations such as curfews and other restrictions have virtually destroyed them.

Shebeen association leader Andrie Nuule told Confidente that NCCI has failed to represent small businesses, which has crippled them.

“This is why you see that the retail sector in Namibia is dominated by foreigners. For me if there is a new association coming I think it’s long overdue and highly needed. Namibian businesses need to be represented and assisted,” he said.