Strike threatened at TransNamib
Thursday, 21 August 2008 13:11
THE byzantine intrigues at parastatals with board members and executives stabbing each other in the back in fights over financial spoils continue unabated with TransNamib CEO Titus Haimbili becoming the latest victim.
The new TransNamib board led by Chairperson Festus Lameck at its very first meeting last Thursday announced the suspension of TransNamib Chief Executive Titus Haimbili, with immediate effect until 31 October this year.
The board euphemistically called the suspension “special leave”, to allow the company to carry out an investigation into alleged conflict of interest and breaches of corporate governance rules by Haimbili.
The company refused to specify the specific allegations against Haimbili.
Meanwhile the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau) yesterday presented the company with an ultimatum, threatening a company-wide strike unless it meets certain demands within two days.
As always, nothing is what it seems at the parastatals, giving rise to a flood of speculation about what the real reasons for Haimbili’s suspension are.
The speculation centres on the fact that Lameck was Haimbili’s rival for the CEOs position when TransNamib advertised the vacancy.
Haimbili having beaten him in the race for the CEOs position the Permanent Secretary of Works and Transport George Simaata appointed Lameck chairperson of the board.
General Secretary of the National Union of Namibian Workers Evilastus Kaaronda feels that Lameck’s appointment as Chairperson to supervise a rival for CEOs position goes against all principles of good corporate governance.
Another possible source of conflict mentioned are the company’s decision not to extend the contract of General Manager: Engineering, Matty Hauuanga, reportedly a relative of Lameck.
According to sources familiar with the dispute, politics may also play a role as some suspect key members of the TransNamib board of being RDP sympathisers.
This might explain the almost immediate and angry response by the trade union movement to Haimbili’s suspension.
In a statement released yesterday Natau however, noted that it complained about the “incompetence of management and board, as well as the dubious Chinese locomotive deals” as early as December 2006.
It seems more than a coincidence that the clash erupted only a week after Haimbili announced with great fanfare that the company would spend N$100 million to refurbish 45 of its old trusty 1968 model General Electric locomotives.
Many experts feel TransNamib should have taken this path in the first place, instead of spending vast sums on Chinese locomotives that have proved a headache for the company from day one.
The Chinese not only supplied the locomotives with incomprehensible maintenance instruction that might as well have been written in Chinese, but were actually written in Chinese.
However, as with the construction contracts awarded to Chinese building companies there are unconfirmed reports of people having received kickbacks in the deal to purchase the Chinese locomotives.
TransNamib workers and the trade unions feel that Haimbili did a good job at the parastatal during his short six-month stint.
Kaaronda said there had now been an irretrievable breakdown in trust between the board and the CEO, and a healthy working relationship had now become impossible.
“If the board cannot substantiate its allegations it must step down, or otherwise the CEO will have to resign,” Kaaronda said.