Staff members at the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development have called for the regularisation of appointments of commercial counsellors to Namibia’s foreign missions abroad to avoid favouritism and nepotism claims.
Sources at the ministry - which is charged with promoting Namibia’s trade and commercial interests - told the Windhoek Observer recently that they have been left frustrated by “the unfair” appointment of commercial counsellors to represent the country in lucrative posts abroad specifically in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, New Delhi, Paris, Pretoria and Washington.
They complained that appointments to these highly-sought-after foreign missions are shrouded in secrecy.
It is alleged that some of the commercial counsellors remain in their respective posts in foreign countries for up to 15 years and generate no real benefit to the country.
“This situation is depriving other officials the chance to serve in these positions. Officials should serve for four to five years, and then come back home to plough back the experience gained while serving abroad,” the sources said.
The Windhoek Observer understands that Bonavintura Hinda, who has been posted to Pretoria since 2007, was recently transferred to Paris contrary to accepted procedures to bring commercial counsellors home before another appointment abroad.
Dr Mekondjo Kaapanda-Girnus, daughter of the former long-serving Minister of Information and Communication Technology Joel Kaapanda, who has been posted to Germany since 2007, was also recently transferred to London.
Another long-serving official Freddy !Gaoseb, who has been posted to the USA since 2009, was recently transferred to China while Kleophas Sirongo, who was posted to Geneva in 2010, was recently transferred to Dubai/Egypt.
Sources further claimed that a government-owned property in Pretoria, which was supposed to be used as a training facility for commercial counsellors preparing for overseas postings, has now become a white elephant.
“The property in Pretoria was acquired for the purpose of training a pool of commercial counsellors, but it has become a white elephant because no training is taking place at this property. This is because there is no serious movement on the appointment of commercial counsellors.
“Recently, three new commercial counsellors to Brazil, Germany and Geneva were appointed, but nobody knows the criteria for such deployment,” another source told the Windhoek Observer.
“Sometimes, we are told that people are lobbying the minister to be appointed. However, we are advocating for a fair system that will give everyone an equal chance.”
The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation is alleged to have written to the ministry of trade seeking clarity as to why commercial counsellors are overstaying in countries where they are posted, but sources claimed that no explanation was ever given.
The Windhoek Observer could not independently verify the claims by the sources as the Ministry of Trade has not responded to questions sent to them three weeks ago.
“I don't think clarity was given, because the current anarchy is used by some to advance their interests. The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation has a good arrangement on this issue. Staff members are posted on a rotational basis, but the trade ministry is stagnant on this issue,” one source said.
“Currently, there are no criteria for these appointments; they are done on an ad hoc basis. In fact, there are no rules at trade governing the appointment of commercial counsellors which is why the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation has written to trade to seek clarity,” the source said.
Those speaking to this newspaper said time limits for commercial counsellors have been discussed at various strategic workshops of the ministry, but nothing has changed.
“Most managers are in support of this proposal because it is working at foreign affairs; however, no one is implementing it here for unknown reasons.
“Managers at this ministry are pushing for clear guidelines on the appointment of commercial counsellors, with the aim of using it as a staff retention strategy in the sense that staff might remain in the ministry with the hope of being posted one day. However, this issue was privatized by the minister; he is the one making the call. They are even directed to report to him.
“The Namibia Investment Centre, a department within the trade ministry, made a comprehensive submission with recommendations on the appointment and time limits for commercial counsellors, however, the current minister ignored them.”
The sources maintained that their concerns were not motivated by jealousy.
“There is nothing personal against those who are posted, we are just advocating for a fair system that will treat everyone equally in the Namibian House.”
The Windhoek Observer has been told that commercial counsellors from the country’s 12 trade missions abroad are currently in Windhoek where they are being briefed on the government efforts to stimulate economic activities