Nghiwete to Kandjii-Murangi You made other people lose their jobs

Former NSFAF CEO Hilya Nghiwete claims her subordinates were recruited as part of a scheme to orchestrate her removal on flimsy grounds. Nghiwete was suspended on full pay in April 2018 and received a salary package of about N$ 185,000 a month for nearly two years until she was dismissed.

In 2022, a High Court judge rejected a labour arbitrator order that Nghiwete should be reinstated as CEO but instead found that Nghiwete’s dismissal in February 2020, before the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing in which she was charged, was unfair and without a valid reason. The judge ordered NSFAF to pay Nghiwete the monthly salary she would have received from her dismissal until mid-July 2021.

She appealed a High Court ruling on her dismissal and is anticipating a Supreme Court verdict. She accuses the higher education minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi, as the “mastermind”.

She claims that the subordinates operated with impunity on Kandjii-Murangi’s orders, including a few board members desperate for a higher position.

Denying any wrongdoing, Nghiwete says the charges, which form part of a report tabled by the board for a vote of no confidence, were “orchestrated” by an NSFAF employee on Kandjii-Murangi’s instructions. In a letter addressed to the minister, Nghiwete said it is seven years since her ordeal started.

She also copied President Nangolo Mbumba, his deputy Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Premier Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Swapo Party secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa.

“I want to bring to your attention, minister, some facts that came to the fore during the seven years of the pain you inflicted on me. Although you have been riding behind the board, no board in this country suspends or fires a CEO without the blessing of the line minister.

“At the beginning of my hearing, my lawyers asked your chief witness the basis of the suspension. The responses were, among others, the report on the vote of no confidence from the board chaired by Patty Karuaihe[-Martin] and the group grievances by selected management who did not report to me as CEO,” said Nghiwete.

The ex-CEO claims the report compiled by company secretary Immanuel Wise was “wrong”, and a few board members distanced themselves from endorsing a vote of no confidence in writing to Kandjii-Murangi, which she purportedly looked the other way.

As a result, Kandjii-Murangi appointed a new board with Development Bank of Namibia boss Jerome Mutumba as chairperson, to which she handed over the report to discipline her. A few NSFAF employees drafted a letter of grievance to the board to complain of being victimised by Nghiwete, claims she also denies.

“Minister, you have commissioned a lot of fruitless expenditure in the name of investigations under the board of Ms Karuaihe-Martin.

“Upon receiving the group grievance [letter], I wrote to the board and you, indicating that the person [being] described in the group grievance [letter] is not me. First, do I victimise staff members who do not report to me?” she asks.

She suspects the employees were coerced and instigated to join forces against her or risk losing their jobs if they failed to sign or testify on the so-called grievances before the board.

“During the hearing, it transpired that the staff were instigated by the chief witness to do a group grievance and by the current acting CEO so that he does not get to be taken to a hearing due to non-performance and if the selected group grievance does a group grievance, I will no longer take any action against any of them as this will be regarded as victimisation because they have registered a group grievance against me. “Minister, you are aware that Ms Cathy Koopman refused to testify against me during my hearings and wrote to the lawyers of NSFAF that she would be a bad witness for NSFAF as she will not [refuse] to lie in the hearing and asked as to why Immanuel and [Kennedy] Kandume are not charged as they are the ones at fault when it comes to the charges formulated against me. All these are in writing. Ms Koopman was later suspended as revenge for refusing to testify and subsequently lost her job,” Nghiwete’s letter reads in part.

She adds that employees wore T-shirts, which depicted her in a bad image.

“Ms Brumhilda Gawagab wrote a constructive dismissal letter to the board, and she wrote a detailed account of how they were coerced to do a group grievance, including T-shirts printed for them to wear against me.

“In her grievance to the board, she indicated that one thing she regretted at NSFAF was supporting the company secretary’s idea of a group grievance against someone she had no daily contact with.

“Again, she confirmed what I had been informing you that the person described and labelled as Hilya Nghiwete is not me, and that is not my character,” she pleads.

In 2017, Kandjii-Murangi asked for advice from former public enterprise minister Leon Jooste on how she could get rid of her as NSFAF boss, Nghiwete also claims in the eight-page dossier.

“You have been pressured by the previous board, especially the chairperson, to fire me. The board chairperson had disclosed this to a common friend,” Nghiwete opines.

She denies any wrongdoing, citing allegations of misuse of credit cards, falsifying records, and victimisation of her junior employees.

She says the custodian of records at NSFAF is Kandume, the acting CEO, who was left unscathed without being dragged to any hearing.

“You have been humiliating me; on the day of inaugurating the board [chaired by] Jerome Mutumba, you requested your assistant to send me a message that I should not attend the inauguration of the new board even though I am by the provision of the NSFAF Act a board member. Instead, you invited an NSFAF manager to distribute the fake vote of no-confidence report,” she claims.

In 2017, Nghiwete also accused Kandjii-Murangi of attempting to “embarrass” her when she abruptly requested information from her during a workshop on the operations of NSFAF.

She also denies refusing instructions to amend the NSFAF Act for reasons yet to be known and to be recruited as CEO on a contractual basis.

“I never refused to change the Act of NSFAF. The discussions we had with you, and others were about how we can make changes for students at private institutions not to be supported by NSFAF when those kids are Namibians and some of their parents pay taxes.

“I further informed you that most of our students outside the country are mainly at private institutions. Regulating or restricting funding for students wishing to study at local private institutions is discriminatory.

“This I vividly objected to. I hope you had time to inform our late president that the information you gave him about me was wrong,” she emphasised.

Nghiwete says whilst on suspension, a board member at the time confessed to her during an apology for “betraying” her that they did not want to be fired as board members and, therefore “made up a story” that she and a disgraced former minister of justice, Sacky Shanghala, who is awaiting trial for corruption misused taxpayers’ funds at NSFAF, and therefore, the latter wanted to get rid of the board.

“The board member told me that his livelihood depended on NSFAF, and he could not lose that opportunity,” says Nghiwete.

Nghiwete says she has never stolen money, misused credit cards or made any misrepresentations during her 22-year career as a public servant from any firm she worked at.

She says Kandjii-Murangi harbours “tribalism” for acting unfairly towards her despite being the only female CEO in the sector.

She says the politician also excluded her from foreign trips on issues about NSFAF and instead preferred to travel with board members.

Nghiwete says an employee at NSFAF is known as a -non-performer, yet he remains untouched due to his allegiance to Kandjii-Murangi, whom she says refers to him as – son.

As CEO, she wrote 29 reports to Kandjii-Murangi upon request in the context of the infighting at NSFAF, but they were left to gather dust, she stresses.

“I was then sacrificed to be the one charged, and you approved that I should be suspended instead of holding the board accountable,” Nghiwete said.

NSFAF, she says, owes her approximately N$700 000 in unpaid leave days, which have since been forfeited after she failed to submit a leave application besides being suspended.

“My 22 years’ successful career from 1996 to 2018 were in vain because of one of our leaders. If it is true what we read in the media that you want to be considered for another leadership position, it pains me a lot. You made other people lose their jobs and you have a job and you want more jobs,” Nghiwete asked.

Kandjii-Murangi was perplexed that Nghiwete was resurrecting issues involving NSFAF with her. She told Confidente this week that she had yet to receive Nghiwete’s letter.

Kandjii-Murangi urged Nghiwete to approach NSFAF if she harbours any grievances.

“Where do I fit in. It’s really unfortunate. Those are NSFAF matters where do I feature. I find it awkward after seven years,” Kandjii-Murangi told Confidente in a telephonic interview. Kandume refused to be drawn into the saga.

“I have no comment on those things. The letter as you are saying was addressed to the minister perhaps it’s better if you engage her,” Kandume retorts.