Namibia: Gawanas-Vugs Holds No Grudges Against Mutorwa

Reinstated Namibia Airports Company board deputy chairperson Beverly Gawanas-Vugs says she is looking forward to a productive relationship with minister John Mutorwa, despite the two having clashed over her recent removal from the board.

Gawanas-Vugs won a legal challenge against Mutorwa last week when he, in a settlement agreement, conceded to her demand to be reinstated as the NAC deputy board chairperson, a position from which she was unceremoniously removed two weeks ago.

The board member told The Namibian yesterday that she does "not dwell in the past", and looks "forward to a productive relationship with the minister, the ministry and fellow board members".

"I believe that both the minister and I should focus on turning the NAC into an efficient and effective airports management company - and this is not a small task," she said.

She added that she has a role to play in turning the company around, and will continue to ensure that all activities at the NAC are transparent and in the best interest of the company.

Mutorwa announced two weeks ago that he had appointed businessman Leake Hangala as the board chair and advocate Irene Visser to replace Gawanas-Vugs as the deputy board chair after the two were recommended to him by public enterprises minister Leon Jooste.

Jooste last week told The Namibian that he did not recommend the two for the top leadership positions, but only as members of the board, to replace the skills void left behind when former board chair Rodgers Kauta resigned.

The settlement agreement states that "First respondent [Mutorwa] accepts the review and setting aside of the decision removing the applicant [Gawanas-Vugs] from the third respondent [NAC]'s board of directors," the High Court settlement agreement reads.

It also states that Mutorwa pays Gawanas-Vugs' legal costs. The Namibian could not establish her legal fees' cost.

Minister Mutorwa was unavailable for comment by the time of going to print.

The deputy board chairperson took legal action against the minister after she learned through the media that she was no longer part of the NAC board.

Her lawyer, Sisa Namandje, argued that the minister did not act in accordance with the Companies Act when he removed her. The lawyer also submitted that reasonable and fair notice of her removal was not given to her, and that she was not given a fair and reasonable opportunity to make representations on why she should not be removed as a board member.

The airports company, a state-owned entity tasked with managing eight national airports countrywide, has been at the centre of struggles over the awarding of tenders worth billion of dollars. The outspoken Gawanas-Vugs is allegedly known to reject pressure from politicians and a clique of technocrats in the works ministry pushing for tenders.

The lack of transparency and sudden removal of Gawanas-Vugs came at a time when the NAC was set to award multibillion-dollar contracts, including the upcoming upgrading of Hosea Kutako International Airport, to winning bidders, with a loan from the Chinese government.

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