City removes CEO to convene ‘Illegal’ meeting
By Confidente Reporters
WINDHOEK City Council’s management committee has installed an acting CEO at the Windhoek Muncipality – City Police senior superintendent Pahukeni Titus – who was tasked to convene a meeting to decide the future role of City Police chief Abraham Kanime after substantive CEO Robert Kahimise declined to convene the meeting, citing lack of urgency.
Despite the fact that the move was deemed illegal, the chairperson of the management committee Moses Shiikwa insisted on convening the meeting yesterday despite the ban on meetings of more than 10 people.
Shiikwa in a letter dated 27 April instructed Kahimise to convene the special management committee meeting on Wednesday to address critical and urgent matters.
“You will also be required to present your work plan during the Covid-19 lockdown period,” Shiikwa wrote.
Yesterday’s session would be the second meeting called by Shiikwa after the councillors failed to convene on 23 April. According to another letter seen by Confidente, that meeting was supposed to be a “strategic meeting” which eight Swapo councillors demanded should take place.
The meeting would likely have been attended by more than 10 people, because Windhoek’s management committee includes 10 councillors and as Shiikwa indicated in his letter, the council secretariat would attend, thus exceeding the limit on people allowed to gather in one place.
HANDPICKED ACTING CEO
The meeting yesterday was then convened by Titus, who was handpicked as the acting CEO instead of being chaired by the substantive CEO, Kahimise.
Several opposition councilors lodged a case with the police (CR332/04/2020) against Mayor Kahungu and Titus for instigating a gathering despite the Covid-19 regulations, in a bid to block the meeting.
Confidente understand that Titus was chosen after some councillors accused Kahimise of “unduly” and “unprocedurally” postponing the initial meeting of 23 April. Usually, if the CEO is not available, meetings can be convened by an acting CEO – who is a strategic executive. But Titus’ position is not equivalent to that of a strategic executive as he heads a department at City Police.
Kahimise said the decision to postpone all meetings was to comply with the new regulations, adding that the 23 April meeting was cancelled as a result of the potential violation of the lockdown regulations. He also stated in a document in Confidente’s possession that the decision to postpone the meeting was taken after he consulted extensively and obtained legal advice prior to the postponement and rescheduling of that meeting and all other strategic meetings to May 7.
Confidente understands that Shiikwa and fellow councillors intended to use the meeting yesterday to extend the contract of outgoing Chief Kanime, because if a decision on the matter had not been taken by today (30 April) Kanime, would have to leave his post as it is his last day at work.
MEETING NOT URGENT
According to Kahimise, the agenda item to discuss the extension of Kanime’s contract is not critical because Council knew about his resignation in January. Kanime’s notice of resignation, which he gave to the CEO in January indicated that he wished to work only until April 30.
By law, councillors cannot convene a meeting without the CEO because the CEO is the only one who in terms the Local Authorities Act is authorised to issue notices for municipal meetings.
According to a legal opinion by Windhoek Councillor Frans Kwala, the CEO was advised that the appointment or extension of a contract can be postponed as it does not constitute a critical service or urgent issue, as defined in the state of emergency regulations.
“I have clear legal reasons for the postponement of the council meeting and the issuing out of notice for the rescheduled meeting. [The] CEO’s compliance with the Covid-19 regulations should certainly not be perceived or interpreted” as meaning that he is unable to execute his duties.
“The calling of the management committee meeting by Councillor Shiikwa is against Section 24 of the Local Authorities Act, and is unlawful as he has no authority to issue such notice,” Kwala said.
In line with this view, City of Windhoek Mayor Fransina Kahungu wrote to her nine fellow Swapo councillors saying she is only authorised to convene meetings on the invitation of the CEO.
“In terms of Local Authorities Act, a notice signed by the chief executive officer and containing the time, date and place of and the matters to be dealt with at every meeting of the local authority council shall be delivered to every member at least 72 hours before such meeting,” Kahungu wrote.
The acting CEO Titus referred further questions to Shiikwa saying he is the only one who can comment. “Those things are beyond me, call Shiikwa,” he said in a text message. Shiikwa requested to be called around 17h00 on Wednesday, which would be too late to include his comments for publication.
Confidente was made to understand that desperate attempts by management committee members to sanction the extended contract of Kanime are part of a plan to make the entity independent of the municipality. Under the new contract, Kanime is expected to develop and implement a succession plan, develop a financial and operational sustainability framework and set up the City Police training school, amongst others.
Impeccable sources told Confidente that under the succession plan, it is rumoured that certain regulations will be amended to give Kanime the sole power to recommend his successor, as well as establish a board that City Police will report to. It was further revealed that there are plans underway to make Kanime a lifetime advisor to the City Police.
Kanime pleaded ignorance to the new court case challenging his contract while saying alleged succession plans are news to him.
Meanwhile, the case filed against the City of Windhoek by PDM Councillor Ignatius Semba to block the extension of Kanime’s contract is back on the court roll. Semba made new submissions last week after his urgent application was struck from the roll.
This time around, Kanime is listed as a respondent. With the new case in court against Kanime’s contract extension, it would be unlawful for councilors to approve Kanime’s contract while the matter is sub judice – that is to say before the courts. Semba this week told Confidente that members of the management committee have been relentless in their pursuit to hold the meeting to have Kanime sign his new contract.
“What I don’t understand, yet find funny, is why members of the management committee want to keep Kanime when he voluntarily resigned and gave three months’ notice, only for us to hear that suddenly they want to keep him.
“We want to know why because what they are doing is illegal. If they promised each other things, or he knows something about them that we don’t. But the thing is there cannot be a tendency that they can simply get what they want.”
Semba noted, “I for one am not tackling the person that is Mr Kanime, but just playing the ball. I have nothing against Mr Kanime, but we cannot have a lawless institution that simply allows some to change laws to suit them and their preferred few individuals. We need to follow the rules, as we took an oath that we will defend the Constitution that guides us.”
Meanwhile, human rights and constitutional law professor at the University of Namibia Nico Horn said the meeting would be in contravention of the lockdown regulations and could have been conducted via internet platforms if there were urgent issues that the councillors needed to discuss.
He said they could have waited until the lockdown is lifted on 4 May to hold the meeting the following day.
On the issue of installing an acting CEO when there is already a substantive CEO , Horn said the decision could have long term effects because the CEO can approach the Labour Court if he feels that Council breached his employment rights.
The head of Windhoek’s legal affairs department, Ben Ngairorue said he had not received a notice of the meeting and referred questions to Kahimise for further clarification.
Contacted for comment, Urban and Rural Development Minister Erastus Uutoni said he was being asked things that he had no knowledge of. Deputy Mayor Ian Subasubani did not answer his mobile phone when contacted on the matter while Kahungu’s number was not reachable.