1 February 2013

Namibia: Namdeb Gets Nasty With RDP Councillor

THE Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) has alleged that the dismissal of its Oranjemund local authority councillor Ronnie Slabbert by Namdeb constitutes "ruthless political victimisation".

Slabbert, who has worked at the mining town for 20 years, was accused of misappropriation of company property worth N$440 000 and N$220 000 respectively, breach of trust, non-compliance with Namdeb policies and procedures, and breach of the company's code of business ethics.

He received his letter of dismissal on January 30, and was given notice to vacate his company house by today.

Slabbert was also informed that he would lose a house on a plot at Swartkops for which he had been granted a seven-year lease. This house was again put up for lease and advertised on open tender.

RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya said the political victimisation against Slabbert started when he refused overtures made by the Swapo Party, which wanted Slabbert as its candidate in the 2010 local authority election.

Slabbert had made himself available as an RDP candidate, and won the only seat for the opposition party at the town.

Shortly after he became a local authority councillor, Slabbert claimed that Swapo Party members had gone to the Swartkops plot and taken pictures of the house he had started renovating.

The claim was that he was not supposed to renovate the house, which is company property, despite Slabbert's claims that he had done so with the express permission of his supervisor.

"On account of his membership of the RDP, trumped-up charges were launched against him, and he was hauled before a disciplinary committee for a hearing," the RDP claimed.

Namdeb employee Francois Carstens represented Slabbert at disciplinary hearings held in August and September last year, where he claimed that evidence against Slabbert was fabricated and reportedly presented proof that witnesses were coached by Namdeb to frame Slabbert.

Carstens has since been suspended by Namdeb, allegedly for having dared to represent Slabbert. Carstens was dismissed yesterday, reportedly on a charge of absence without approved leave.

Slabbert got another legal representative, Lourens Willers, whose permit to enter Oranjemund for the last disciplinary hearing on Monday, January 28, was withdrawn despite the fact that his permit was valid until October.

Slabbert refused to sit in at this hearing without his representative, which resulted in his dismissal.

Slabbert is to declare a labour dispute with Namdeb at the labour commissioner's office, and yesterday applied to Namdeb to rent the company house in his capacity as Oranjemund local authority councillor.

Hamutenya yesterday said the party had requested an urgent audience with both President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Prime Minister Hage Geingob to discuss Slabbert's predicament, but to no avail.

Namdeb's marketing manager, Pauline Thomas, said the dismissal of Slabbert was an internal matter, adding, "suffice [it] to say it had absolutely nothing to do with his political activities".

She said disciplinary matters are dealt with in accordance with company policies and procedures.

"As a non-political corporate citizen, Namdeb is not affiliated to any political party. However, Namdeb employees have the right to exercise their political interests and as such we are not at liberty to interfere or comment on Mr Slabbert's role as an Oranjemund town council member," Thomas responded.

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