Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Executive Secretary Paulina Elago has been given a reprieve after the Council of Ministers recently renewed her contract for an unknown period, the Windhoek Observer has established.
The Namibian national, who was appointed for her first five-year term in April 2014, is said to have had a tumultuous tenure at the helm of the world’s oldest customs union.
Sources claimed that Elago’s reign has been marred by unconfirmed allegations of a broken working relationship with customs union staff.
They purported that many SACU workers want Elago out. The Namibian delegation led by Chairman of the SACU Council of Ministers Calle Schlettwein has remained steadfast in its support of Elago, insisting that she be given a new mandate.
A source privy to the work of the union, which is headquartered in Windhoek, said on Tuesday that Elago’s contract was extended by an unknown period as from 10 October.
The source said details of Elago’s latest contract were shrouded in secrecy in a surprise break from tradition.
Ministry of Finance Chief Public Relations Officer Tonateni Shidhudhu confirmed the reappointment on Wednesday but refused to go into further details.
“The Executive Secretary (Ms Paulina Elago) has been appointed by the Council of Ministers. The council remains seized with the matter on the duration of her term,” was all Shidhudhu could say in an emailed response to detailed questions.
Shidhudhu declined to be drawn into commenting, among others, on the duration of Elago’s contract and rumours that staff at SACU had revolted against her continued stay at the helm of the customs union that was established in 1910.
Schlettwein did not respond to questions sent to him since August despite promising to do so. Weekly newspaper The Patriot reported earlier that the Council of Ministers temporarily extended Elago’s contract by three months, from 1 April until the end of June 2019.
Elago is said to have continued coming to the office in July and represented the institution in a panel discussion at the economic summit held in Windhoek from 31 July to 1 August.
The Patriot reported Elago’s contract lapsed after the Council of Ministers failed to agree on extending it.
The Council of Ministers consists of ministers of finance and trade from each of the five-member states namely Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and eSwatini.
Long-serving Finance Ministry Executive Director Erica Shafudah was appointed to serve as Acting SACU secretary for two-months until last week’s second coming of Elago.
Shafudah refused to comment on her appointment or role at SACU where it was reported that she spent a few hours every week. She referred all questions to Schlettwein.
SACU remains a mainstay of Namibia’s economy with about a third of the country’s revenue in the 2019/20 fiscal year expected to come from SACU receipts.