Namibia: City Must Consider Lifting Kanime's Suspension

THE Windhoek City Council should decide by 22 May if it will lift the more than year-long suspension of City Police chief Abraham Kanime or not, High Court judge Harald Geier has ordered.

The order was given on Friday as part of an agreement reached in a case in which Kanime tried to get a court order to have his suspension set aside, and to have himself reinstated in his post as head of the Windhoek City Police, in which he is being paid a monthly salary of N$184 736. Kanime is still being paid his salary while on suspension.

Judge Geier did not hear oral arguments on Kanime's urgent application against City of Windhoek chief executive officer Robert Kahimise and the Windhoek City Council, after he indicated to the lawyers representing Kanime and the city council and CEO that in his opinion, the dispute between Kanime and the city could be resolved if the parties could have a discussion with each other.

After giving Kanime's lawyer, Sisa Namandje, and senior counsel Raymond Heathcote, representing the city council and CEO, time to consider his view, judge Geier was informed that the lawyers had reached an agreement to have Kanime's urgent application postponed to give the city council time to try to resolve his suspension.

In terms of the agreement, the court postponed the urgent application to 5 June, and ordered that the city council and CEO should ensure that a council meeting, at which the lifting of Kanime's suspension should be considered, is convened by 22 May.

Judge Geier also ordered that the parties involved in a disciplinary process against Kanime should agree by 22 May when his disciplinary hearing would continue.

Kanime was suspended on 26 March 2018.

He was later slapped with 69 charges of misconduct over allegations that he had unauthorised payments made to lawyers who represented himself and City Police officers in cases against the city, and allegations that he appointed members of the City Police without following the stipulated recruitment processes, and appointed City Police officers in acting positions for longer than the maximum permissible period.

His disciplinary hearing has been in limbo since the disciplinary panel threw out three of the charges, dealing with the alleged unauthorised payments to lawyers, in December last year. The city subsequently decided to also withdraw 46 of the remaining charges, leaving Kanime facing 20 misconduct charges over the alleged appointment of police officers without following the required recruitment process.

In an affidavit filed at the court, Kanime says it became clear to him when his disciplinary hearing did not proceed during the period from February to April this year that Kahimise "in particular was determined to keep me on suspension while he has no interest in [the] continuation of the disciplinary hearing, probably because he has no belief in the charges he preferred against me".

In another affidavit filed at the court, Kahimise said after he returned to his office near the end of January, following a nearly three-month period during which he, too, was suspended from his post, he considered a call president Hage Geingob had made for both his and Kanime's suspension to be lifted, and informed the management committee of the city council he was prepared to reinstate Kanime, and to withdraw all pending disciplinary charges, "pending a directive from the council".

The management committee bounced the ball back into Kahimise's court in February, when it informed him that the powers to suspend Kanime or uplift his suspension vested in him as CEO of the City of Windhoek. Kahimise stated that he then decided not to end Kanime's suspension.

Kahimise also argued in his affidavit that Kanime should have challenged his suspension in court earlier than he did, and that since he is suspended on full pay, there was no financial urgency in having his suspension lifted.

That aspect of the case also drew judge Geier's attention. While Kanime is not suffering financial prejudice during his suspension, the city would at least be getting some value for the money it is paying him if he were to be allowed to return to work, the judge remarked.

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