Namibia: Defeat in Court for Axed NSFAF Chief

AN ATTEMPT by the dismissed former chief executive officer of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund, Hilya Nghiwete, to stop the implementation of a decision to axe her from her position has failed in the Windhoek Labour Court.

A case in which Nghiwete was asking the Labour Court to stop the decision to dismiss her from her post as CEO of the fund (NSFAF) from being implemented was struck off the court roll yesterday, with acting judge Kobus Miller ruling that Nghiwete's application did not meet the requirements to be heard on an urgent basis.

Nghiwete's application was filed at the Labour Court on 18 February, and was heard by acting judge Miller on 28 February.

Nghiwete asked the court to order that the NSFAF's decision to dismiss her may not be implemented and should not take effect until a complaint that she has filed at the Office of the Labour Commissioner has been dealt with.

She also wanted the court to order that all steps taken as a result of the NSFAF board's decision on 6 February should be reversed and that the previous situation - in which she was still in her position as CEO of the fund - should be maintained.

Nghiwete informed the court that she was suspended from her post as CEO during April 2018, after the appointment of the current NSFAF board. The appointment of the board itself was illegal, she is claiming, and a case in which the legality of the board's appointment is being questioned is set to be heard in the High Court on 7 May.

Following her suspension, Nghiwete was charged in a disciplinary hearing which has not yet been concluded, the court was also informed.

The disciplinary hearing was scheduled to continue from 6 January this year, but was postponed after a psychologist booked Nghiwete off for three months in December.

According to Nghiwete, the NSFAF board did not have the power to dismiss her without giving her a fair opportunity to be heard, and with her disciplinary hearing partly done it was for the chairperson of the hearing, and not the board, to decide whether she had a valid medical reason to be absent from the hearing on 6 January.

She also claimed in an affidavit filed at the court that she was facing financial disaster as a result of her dismissal, as she would be losing the monthly pay package of N$102 402,95, after tax and other deductions, that she has been receiving while suspended from her position as CEO.

Nghiwete further informed the court that she has monthly expenses totalling some N$54 565 that she has to meet. That amount includes expenses of about N$11 000 on flight tickets to Pretoria twice a month to visit her husband, Namibia's high commissioner in South Africa, Veiccoh Nghiwete, and children, Nghiwete also stated in her affidavit.

During the hearing of the case, Geoffrey Dicks, who was one of the lawyers representing the NSFAF, argued that the Labour Court has previously ruled that financial loss and other hardship that a person claiming to have been unfairly dismissed alleged they would be experiencing if not reinstated immediately, do not by themselves constitute a ground to justify having a case heard on an urgent basis.

Dicks also argued that there was no proof that Nghiwete could not survive financially and that her husband would not assist her, if necessary, until her labour dispute had been heard at the Office of the Labour Commissioner.

Nghiwete was represented by Sisa Namandje and Ndeli Ndaitwah.

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