16 January 2018

Namibia: Works Gives Expatriate Engineers Second Chance

SOME Zimbabwean quantity surveyors and architects were interviewed for their jobs last year alongside aspiring Namibians, despite a High Court order that the expatriates should leave the country.

The expatriates came to Namibia in 2012 after the two countries signed a five-year memorandum of understanding.

When the agreement expired last year, some of the expatriates stayed on, resulting in Namibian quantity surveyors approaching the High Court.

The High Court ruled on 19 December that since the five-year memorandum of understanding had expired, the Zimbabwean expatriates should leave the country.

The Namibian understands, however, that the Zimbabwean expatriates listed in the court papers had applied for their former jobs, and were invited for interviews.

The works ministry's permanent secretary (PS), Willem Goeiemann, confirmed yesterday that some of the expatriates who were ordered to leave, applied, and had been interviewed for the advertised positions.

Goeiemann said the contracts of the expatriates who were interviewed expire in 2019, and Cabinet had resolved that these individuals can stay.

"Cabinet said where there is a lack of skills in a field, the Zimbabwean engineers can apply," the PS noted, adding that the matter was "very complicated".

Goeiemann said he was seeking legal advice on how to deal with the issue because if those whose contracts are still valid are asked to go, the government will be forced to pay them every month until 2019.

"What I can say to you is that the Zimbabwean professionals have started to leave, and those whose contracts came to an end in December are in the process of leaving," he added.

As for the employment of those who applied and who were interviewed for the positions, Goeiemann said the Public Service Commission has to report on the interviewing process before any of them can be appointed.

The PS said that only three, four or five Namibian professionals who applied qualify for the positions with regards to either registration with the Namibia Council for Architects and Quantity Surveyors, or the requisite experience.

Some architects, quantity surveyors and engineers, who declined to be named, said it is impossible that Namibia does not have enough qualified professionals in those fields.

They added that the fact that the market still lacks experienced professionals as claimed by the permanent secretary begs the question what skills were imparted and transferred then by the expatriates for the good of the industry.

To be eligible, one needs a minimum of three years specialised training before sitting for an examination that would enable one to become professional.

A member of the council, Lesley Hindjou, who sat on the interviewing panel, also confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that some Zimbabwean expatriates were interviewed.

The chairperson of the Namibian Society of Engineers, Charles Mukwaso, told The Namibian yesterday that out of the estimated 2 000 registered engineers in the country, about 400 are registered.

Mukwaso also said that the works ministry was now asking for six years' work experience after one has been registered.

A quantity surveyor, who declined to be identified, said a number of the expatriates listed in the court order did not only apply for the positions that were advertised, but are still in their offices waiting for the results of the interview.

"They are still sitting in their offices. You can go see for yourself," the quantity surveyor said.

The quantity surveyor added that he does not understand how the expatriates were considered for the interviews if they only had temporary registration as per Government Gazette last year.

In Notice Number 87 published in the Government Gazette Number 6285 on 13 April last year, works minister Alpheus !Naruseb stated that he had exempted the said expatriates from meeting certain registration requirements.

The exemptions were met with opposition from Namibian professionals demanding the withdrawal of the minister's waiver.

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