Ex-diplomat’s N$1 million case dismissed

By Hertta-Maria Amutenja

THE Windhoek High Court has reversed an order by the Labour Commission to award ex-diplomat Joseph Amutenya a N$1 million settlement against the Ministry of International Relations that rejected an application to extend his contract beyond retirement.

On August 19 2016, Ambassador Simon Maruta wrote on behalf of Amutenya who served as a second secretary at the Namibian embassy in Vienna, Austria since May 22 2014 and was set to retire on January 31 2017 to then permanent secretary of Ministry of International Relations Selma Ashipala-Musavyi requesting her to consider retaining Amutenya after attaining retirement age.

The application for extension noted that he was still in good physical and mental health and was able to perform his duties and as such his services should be retained for another two years to enable him to complete his posting period which would allow him to pay for the university fees of his two children.

The ambassador did not receive any response on his request and wrote a reminder to the permanent secretary on September 16 2016.

Ashipala-Musavyi wrote back to Maruta on October 13 2016, indicating that the request to extend Amutenya’s services beyond retirement age of 60 was denied and that his replacement had already been informed. 

The rejection prompted Amutenya to take the ministry to the Labour Court claiming unfair labour practice.

In his application Amutenya claimed that Ashipala-Musavyi failed to direct his request to the relevant authorities claiming that the PS had a personal vendetta against him. He extended that turning down his application was prejudicial and amounted to unfair labour practice.

The Labour Commission ruled in his favour and ordered the ministry to pay N$1 141 630.80, an amount equalling Amutenya’s one year’s salary excluding allowances. Records show that he earned up to N$95 135.90 per month excluding allowances. He then requested that payments be done by not later than November 30 2018 via electronic transfer.

Consequently, the ministry took to the High Court to have the award and settlement set aside. They noted that while it is the duty of the permanent secretary to forward a request for the retention of service after retirement age made by the staff member on his or her own behalf for consideration to the Prime Minister via the Public Service Commission, a proper request, meeting the requirements should be first submitted.  According to the ministry, no proper request was made before the permanent secretary.

The court held that no reasonable arbitrator would have found that there is a probability that Amutenya’s employment would have been extended beyond the prescribed retirement age in light of the fact that the he did not make a compelling case to fit the requirements of the Public Service Staff Rule which allows and sets conditions for staff members’ employment to be retained beyond retirement.