24 April 2019

Namibia: NWR Suspends Hengari Over Sun Karros Deal

The managing director of Namibia Wildlife Resorts Zelna Hengari was suspended yesterday with full pay.

Hengari was served with a suspension letter yesterday morning, and charged with illegally signing a public-private partnership agreement with Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris. As part of the joint venture agreement, NWR allowed Sun Karros to put up private accommodation within the resort's property, a deal that was allegedly sealed without the approval of the NWR board and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The agreement is also known as the glamping agreement.

The suspension letter in possession of The Namibian, said allegations against Hengari include but are not limited to possible irregularities and/or misconduct, "in that you allegedly contracted with Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris and/or entered into a public-private partnership with Sun Karros on behalf of Namibia Wildlife Resorts Limited without necessary approval to do so, and/or without following the correct procedures."

Chairperson of NWR Leonard Iipumbu confirmed Hengari's suspension in a statement yesterday, citing that the suspension is pending investigations. He added that her suspension is with immediate effect from 23 April 2019 with full pay. "We do not at this stage wish to divulge the nature of the investigations," he stated.

The chairperson added that Matthias Ngwangwama has been appointed as the acting managing director for the duration of the investigations. Ngwangwama was previously employed as chief financial officer at NWR for five years. He currently holds the position of chief officer for strategy and projects.

"We are confident that the company will be in good hands, pending the finalisation of the investigations," Iipumbu noted.

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday said he was not aware of the suspension.

He told The Namibian that any suspension of an employee must be a consequence of any sort of misconduct. "We should wait from the board of directors on what charges they will bring against the managing director and for the public to see and I will also have an opportunity, together with other relevant authorities to look at whether it warrants such an action such as suspension," he said.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, Hengari stressed that although the board claims that the agreement was illegal and she did not follow the correct procedures, both the ministry and the board had a say in the matter, and had approved it.

Hengari was initially appointed as acting managing director in 2013, before her permanent appointment in 2016, which was backdated to 2014.

The glamping agreement was signed by NWR on 11 June 2018, while Sun Karros signed it in May 2018.

The ministry and the board went as far as calling for the cancellation of the agreement through an urgent court application, but they then opted to renegotiate the contents of the deal.

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