Incoming chief executive officer (CEO) Conrad Lutombi’s rise to the helm of the City of Windhoek (CoW) has not been short of drama.
New files from inside the ministry of urban and rural development and the municipality itself have painted a picture of how various forces tussled to make or break the city’s new boss.
This trove of documents constitutes a series of heated and strong-worded correspondence between the mayor Sade Gawanas, unionists from within the CoW, and urban and rural development minister Erastus Utoni.
They paint a picture of a union which dug in to resist the arrival of Lutombi at the CoW, a mayor who fought back against odds and a minister caught in between.
What is presently apparent is that Lutombi’s arrival at the CoW comes at the back of suspicion and resentment from the Namibia Local Authority Workers Union (NALAWU), which claims to represent the interests of a greater part of workers at the muicipality.
The union has been tussling with Gawanas over Lutombi, and on 17 October 2022 complained to Utoni alleging corruption, abuse of power, favouritism and tribalism in the recruitment process.
As Lutombi takes over, it has come to light that the union expressed unhappiness with the shortlisting process and how certain candidate were eliminated “without explanation”.
In the process, NALAWU saw itself knocking heads with Gawanas, who pleaded with Utoni against giving ear and weight to attempts by the union to stop Lutombi right in his tracks.
“There were numerous allegations of councilors’ involvement in the recruitment process from the shortlisting. One of them is that the former mayor, Job Amupanda took the whole recruitment file and list of candidates to his house. A driver from City Police was sent to collect the file from the former mayor’s house,” the Union alleges .
NALAWU’s letter to the minister was received with backlash from Gawanas, who wrote to Utoni cautioning him against taking the cue from what she called “disingenuous individuals”.
She accused the union of seeking to influence Utoni’s ability to critically analyse “the dynamics at play” and make a decision premised exclusively on factual considerations as opposed to newspaper articles, hearsay and unsolicited letters lacking proof or presentation of evidence substantiating allegations”.
The exchange of words between the union and the mayor through the minister has painted a picture of uncertainty as to whether Lutombi’s five-year tenure will be a smooth ride.
His rise has thus been cursed by political discord, yet in the same vein blessed by a chairperson who has fought against everything and everyone in his way, including the media.
It is presently clear, therefore, that Lutombi enjoys the support of Gawanas who further black-painted the union as having carried out “sinister efforts” to “obscure a transparent process which has proved compliant to all relevant legislation”.
“The written submission submitted to your office on 18 October 2022, which adequately presented all information of administrative process should be contrasted with the prescriptive legislation and serve as the primary basis of consideration and decision,” she submitted.
The mayor’s pleadings before the minister were in light of Utoni having asked her to bring clarity on the union’s allegations.He sought to know whether some members of the municipal council had posed questions to candidates during the interview sessions.
Utoni had asked Gawanas to see to it that council comprehensively address all issues raised by the union especially on accusations of bias and favouritism in the shortlisting process.
“The involvement or interference of former mayor, Cllr Dr. Job Amupanda in the recruitment process namely that he ‘took the files’ with information on the CEO recruitment to his house. There is no mention of this incident and how it has been dealt with by the council.”
“If true, the alleged act may be a contravention of Selection and Recruitment Regulation 37. Please provide details of what you spoke about and how it has been handled or resolved by the council,”Utoni said.
In response, Gawanas threw the kitchen sink at media reports and claims that Amupanda confiscated files to his home labeling such as “sensationalist journalism”.
“Subsequent clarification of the events which took place failed to garner correction or retraction of the newspapers’ tabloid style reporting as the media house continued to misrepresent facts and events,” the mayor charged.
“The purposeful misquoting and sensationalism of the recruitment and selection process from 2021 to date by media houses is a failed attempt to discredit a process which has come to its logical conclusion following a process of due diligent which has resulted in all queries being addressed,” the mayor told Utoni.
She thus denied that Amupanda ever took files to his house as per the media reports and allegations by NALAWU.
With Lutombi now comfortably at the helm of the municipality necessitated by a final letter of approval from Utoni, the jury is still out as to whether the hostility and suspicions from the union will immediately or in due course subside.