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Senior Govt Officials ‘Sidestep’ Public Service Act

Several senior government officials have been accused of contravening the Public Service Act by taking up political positions in political parties.

These are Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare executive director Martha Mbombo, who serves as Swapo coordinator for the party’s Pionierspark branch in Windhoek, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform executive director Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata, who is the Swapo Party Women’s Council coordinator for Pionierspark, and agriculture ministry chief veterinary officer Albertina Shilongo, who serves as Swapo’s information secretary for Windhoek West.

When contacted for comment, Mbombo said she would come back to The Namibian, but she did not do so at the time of going to print.

Section 30 of the Public Service Act states that to ensure the impartiality of the public service, a staff member who serves in the management of the public service should not preside at a public political meeting.

The act also prohibits such officials from publishing any writing or delivering a public speech or making a public statement with the intention to promote or prejudice the interest of any political party. The act also prevents officials from being office-bearers of any political parties.

Deputy executive director in the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises Francois Brand is currently contesting for the position of Swapo treasurer for the Windhoek West district, with elections slated to take place on Saturday.

Brand reportedly also serves as chairperson of Swapo’s Cimbebasia section.

A list of delegates to Swapo’s Windhoek West extraordinary district conference, held in July last year and addressed to Swapo leaders in Windhoek West district, shows that Shilongo is Swapo information secretary for the district.

Mbombo and Nghituwamata were also delegates to the extraordinary district conference.

Shilongo and Nghituwamata did not answer calls to their mobile phones by yesterday. They also did not answer text messages sent to them several times last week.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Brand asked The Namibian to call back after an hour. However, he was unreachable an hour later.

Cabinet secretary George Simataa told The Namibian last Thursday that he was unable to answer questions regarding the matter. “I advise that you speak to the people concerned.”

Swapo secretary for legal affairs Pohamba Shifeta said the senior cadres who violate provisions of the act are aware of their public service contractual obligations and are required to act accordingly as provided for in their individual capacities as senior cadres and members of the party.

“Their contracts with their employer must have spelled out their rights and obligations unambiguously. And it is their employer, through the Public Service Commission, which is the competent authority to act if any violation or any act of misconduct has been committed,” Shifeta said.

He added that although Swapo has a duty to implement disciplinary measures on its members, as provided for by the party constitution, in this case it is the employer of such senior cadres who is legally invested with the authority to enforce employment contracts.

“The party shall not have any objection to the employer enforcing such contractual obligations of individual members of the party,” he said.

Every party member has a right to be elected in a position of authority, subject to restrictions of section 30 of the Public Service Act, Shifeta said.

Political analyst Rui Tyitende said it is important to understand that Swapo is by a large extent, a party-state, and the party and the state have become intertwined.

For this reason, problems in the party have become problems in the state, said Tyitende.

“Therefore, the naked violation of the Public Service Act should come as no surprise as the leadership in the party consider positions in the public service as their private fiefdoms. President Hage Geingob and the prime minister should act on this violation of the law if the mantra of accountability + transparency = trust is to be taken seriously by all citizens,” Tyitende said.

“What is the point of having laws in place if the very same laws are being violated by senior members of the governing party? They should all resign, either from their positions in the party or their positions in government, as they cannot simultaneously retain possession of a cake and eat it, too.”