Namibia: Everyone Wants to Be the Boss – Sioka

Minister of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare Doreen Sioka says everyone wants to be a boss at the National Disability Council of Namibia.

Sioka, who is accused of interference, has charged that the council’s board members are failing to do their jobs.

“Individual members are writing to the minister’s office, and for us this is an indication that there is no focused centre of power, but everybody wants to be a boss, which leads to the dysfunctionality of the council,” Sioka said in a letter dated 5 February 2021, sent to board member Regina Hausiku.

The state-funded disability council was formed to improve the plight and conditions of people living with disabilities in the country.

But power struggles have overshadowed the institution for years.

Infighting has now also damaged the relationship between the board and the minister.

Other fights were triggered after the board removed its chairperson, Martin Tjivera, in a vote of no confidence passed at a meeting on 13 October 2020 at the after-school centre at Grysblok.

Sioka revoked this decision two weeks ago.

On 5 February 2021 the minister threatened to fire Hausiku unless she provided reasons why she should be retained as a board member.

Hausiku denied any wrongdoing.

Sioka asked Hausiku to list her contributions to the disability council.

Hausiku is accused of undermining the minister’s authority after she failed to restore Tjivera as board chairperson and refused to provide reasons for this.

“On the basis of the ongoing governance flaws perpetuated by the disability council, we have concluded that the current council may have failed to exercise its judiciary duties to meet the obligations established by the act, unless the contrary is proven,” Sioka said.

In a letter dated 11 February 2021, Hausiku was dismayed by the fact that Sioka was asking about her individual contributions to the disability council, instead of the board’s collective effort.

“Council members do not operate in isolation, but collectively. It should be noted that all efforts are made as a group, and should ideally not reflect on individual contributions. This further divides the board members in their contributions,” she said.

Hausiku last week told The Namibian the situation at the council is a sensitive matter.

“We held a meeting with the minister (Sioka) to try and resolve the issues last week. We are still awaiting feedback. One thing for sure is that the dismissal of the former acting director (Meliherius Haukambe) remains in place,” Hausiku said.

“I can’t say more at the moment, because the issue is confidential as we are waiting for feedback regarding our meeting with the minister,” she said.

Hausiku said board chairperson Tjivera has been influenced by communications shared with former acting director Haukambe, and that he doesn’t consult the full board on the organisation’s issues.

The breakdown in the relationship between the board, Sioka and the deputy minister of disability affairs, Alexia Manombe-Ncube, was triggered by former disability council boss Haukambe’s contract termination.

Haukambe was forcefully removed from office last month.

He is accused of having worked without a contract since 2016, and of enriching himself and his relatives through irregular activities, with an alleged N$1,5 million.

Manombe-Ncube and Sioka appear to have run out of options to solve the infighting at the council.

Manombe-Ncube last week told The Namibian they have exhausted almost all avenues to solve the infighting.

“We roped in people like the late Mandela Kapere to train the board members on how to handle an institution like the disability council, yet nothing has changed. I don’t know if this is deliberate or whether the members simply don’t have a clue of what’s going on,” Manombe-Ncube said.