Namibia: Hengari Wants N$8m Payout

Former Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) managing director Zelna Hengari wants the state tourism agency to pay her N$8,4 million, as well as let her keep a company vehicle.

Hengari made these demands in a letter sent to public enterprises minister Leon Jooste on 26 June 2019.

Her reign at the NWR ended last month when her employment contract expired. Hengari, however, claims her employment contract was erroneously backdated to 2014, a time she was acting CEO.

She is now asking the state agency mandated to run the government's tourism facilities for a golden handshake.

The N$8,4 million demand includes N$1,2 million for being underpaid, and N$3 million as salary for the remaining years she reportedly had on her contract. She also wants N$3 million for her performance bonus.

The other demands include N$200 000 for using her own car, and N$400 000 in the place of a company vehicle, while she also wants N$430 000 as severance pay.

"Following our meeting with president Geingob, on 16 May 2019, and subsequent meetings on this matter, I was advised that a directive was given that NWR pays out all my outstanding monies, including for two years that ought to remain on my employment agreement, which was erroneously backdated to 2014," she wrote.

Hengari earned N$1,1 million a year as acting MD, before she was substantively appointed in the position.

According to her, she ought to have been paid N$1,4 million when she was appointed the company's substantive chief executive in 2016, but she was instead paid just over N$1 million.

"On 1 November 2017, my salary was finally adjusted following your approval of exemptions for myself of N$1,51 million. However, at implementation, my salary was only adjusted to N$1,34 million, which is even below that of the chief financial officer (CFO), and remains so to this day," she stated.

She revealed that NWR's chief financial officer Talita Horn earns N$1,35 million a year, and complained of not benefiting from a 7% salary increase in 2016.

"Despite the promise of the chairperson in his letter to you [minister Jooste], no retrospective corrections were done to all these underpayments as a result of the initial and subsequent errors and misalignments. As you can see, the cost of that to me was significant, and amounts to N$3,4 million," she said.

Hengari added that she had raised the issue with the board, "but did not press them as I wanted to avoid conflict in order to ensure stability for NWR, which since inception has been rocked by board/management conflicts".

She now wants to be paid what is due to her, including interest accrued as a result of the time lapse.

She also argues that her employment contract provides for a 30% performance bonus.

"As you are aware, I have never been appraised in terms of the performance agreement I signed, but the performance of the company speaks for itself in this regard, and I fully deserve my bonus," she continued.

Hengari is also fighting to keep the company vehicle allocated to her, believed to be a Toyota Prado.

"Also, the precedent set for both previous substantive managing directors (Vicky Nicodemus and Tobie Aupindi) was that they got to keep the company cars purchased for their use. Following on this precedent, I believe that I should also be able to keep my company car, which was bought in terms of my employment agreement, or be paid out that benefit for the remaining two years," Hengari said.

According to her, this is in addition to "the payment that needs to be done for the use of my own car as the company car was only bought a year later from the date of signature of the employment agreement".

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday confirmed seeing Hengari's letter.

"I have seen the letter because it was sent to me by Jooste. I have since forwarded it to the board to deal with the matter. I am pretty sure the board will pronounce itself once the time is right," he said.

Hengari did not copy him into the letter when she wrote to Jooste, despite Shifeta being the political head of the ministry.

She addressed it to Jooste, and copied in the prime minister and youth presidential adviser Daisry Mathias.

Jooste said he is hoping that a solution will be reached.

"In identifying such a solution, one should balance the interests of the company with those of the individual to ensure that neither the company nor the individual is unduly compromised or privileged," he observed.

Hengari did not respond to messages sent to her this week.

An Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation is underway following an avalanche of accusations against Hengari - ranging from maladministration to fraud.

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