Unemployed Namibian engineers will now have a chance to apply for positions within Government after the Ministry of Works and Transport recently advertised the engineering positions previously occupied by Zimbabwean expatriates whose extended contracts are expiring at the end of the year.
The Zimbabwean engineers are in the country under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that was signed in 2012 and expired in May 2017. The agreement allowed Harare to provide Windhoek with engineers to work on capital projects, while transferring skills to Namibians.
The ministry has now advertised 87 vacancies for civil/structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors and architects.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer, the ministry’s spokesperson, Julius Ngweda, said the vacancy list has already been made available to the public so that qualified Namibian candidates can apply.
He said that 37 out of the 57 Zimbabwean engineers, whose contracts will expire in just over a month, will be allowed to re-apply.
The 37 foreign engineers who will be allowed to re-apply are those with skills that the country still requires.
They will, however, not be given special treatment, as is the case at the moment.
“There are some useful Zimbabwean colleagues who may still be needed, but they can only apply with everyone else,” Ngweda said.
The Windhoek Observer is reliably informed that the engineers who have been allowed to re-apply will do so under strict conditions which will include a cut in salary and benefits.
The engineers will get a 40 percent salary cut and will not get free accommodation as is the case currently.
Zimbabwean engineers are said to be earning around N$30,000 per month. They will now receive N$18,000 to do the same work and pay their own rent.
Quizzed about the Engineering Professional Association members who in August submitted over 300 resumes in protest against the hiring of foreign nationals, Ngweda said they were welcome to submit their CVs for the specific jobs advertised.
“We are urging Namibians to apply in large numbers,” he said.
A local engineer who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity praised the ministry for what he termed, “a move in the right direction”.
He said he was happy that the ministry was now giving locals a chance to apply for jobs in their own country.
The engineer, however, condemned the decision to let the expats re-apply, saying such a move is contradictory to what the locals have been fighting for.
“It defeats the purpose; Namibians can still fill up all those positions. There are many qualified Namibians with masters’ degrees,” the engineer said.
Namibia Society of Engineers (NASE) Secretary General, Rachel Kalolo, said they are hoping to prove Government wrong on the statement that there are no Namibians capable of doing that work.
She said NASE is working on arranging an appointment with either the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, or Permanent Secretary, Willem Goeieman, before the closing date of applications to discuss several issues regarding registration requirements.
NASE want to discuss the parameters of employment and exemptions for Namibians who wish to take up the positions pending registration.
“We want to make it categorically clear that under no circumstances will we accept a foreigner to be employed in the advertised posts, over a qualified Namibian applicant, no matter what Namibians' registration statuses are at the moment (MWT must make it clear what the end game here is),” she said.
NASE is also planning to head hunt candidates for the top positions advertised, in order to make sure that those strategic positions remain in local hands.
“NASE should aim to extinguish any chances that currently exist in Government (and industry) where expatriate manpower is preferred before local talent is exhausted,” Kalolo said.
The original controversy was sparked when !Naruseb waived the engineering registration requirement for Zimbabwean engineers.