When it rains, it pours at the City of Windhoek.
In recent weeks, the embattled council has staggered from one controversy to another, while residents wait in anticipation for basic services.
Currently without a substantive CEO, a motion of no confidence has been moved to dislodge the municipality’s management committee (MC) after a year-long saga that engulfed the council.
Now, City employees have accused mayor Sade Gawanas of receiving double transport benefits from the city, which is irregular, according to policy.
The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) politician is currently getting N$9 500 as a monthly transport allowance. This means the mayor has pocketed at least N$57 000 in transport allowances since January. Simultaneously, the mayor uses three City of Windhoek vehicles – a Mercedes Benz C-Class, a Toyota Fortuner and a Toyota 4x4 bakkie – as well as an assigned driver for official and private use, New Era has learned.
Gawanas denied the allegations.
Using City vehicles and receiving an allowance simultaneously is in contravention of councillor benefits' policy, which dictates that a mayor or deputy mayor can either choose to be paid a transport allowance to make use of their own vehicles for official duties, or opt to be allocated official vehicles with an assigned driver. By choosing the latter, they relinquish being paid a monthly transport allowance.
They can’t have both, as is the case with Gawanas. She is aware of the contravention.
Back in January, strategic executive for human capital and corporate services George Mayumbelo informed her about the benefits.
“[The] Mayor and deputy mayor portfolios shall be given an option to either choose to be paid a transport allowance with the condition to make use of either their own vehicle, or opt to be allocated official vehicles with an assigned driver, and by choosing the latter, payment of transport allowance be forgone,” reads a letter dated 19 January 2022 from Mayumbelo to Gawanas.
She was given two days to make up her mind.
On 24 January, deputy mayor Joseph Uapingene had already decided.
He chose to be paid a monthly transport allowance “with the condition to make use of my own vehicle for official duties”.
In March, the staffing and remuneration manager reached out to the acting manager for mayoral and council affairs to remind the latter about Gawanas’ double-dipping.
“Several follow-ups were made with the office of the mayor, who referred it to the office of the CEO, but to no avail,” reads another letter dated 23 March.
When contacted, Gawanas seemed irritated with officials and councillors trying to “tarnish my reputation”.
“I was using the vehicle for official purposes and not for private use,” she stated.
Gawanas went a step further, sharing a memo she purportedly sent to acting CEO O’Brien Hekandjo, in which she is seeking clarity on her transport benefits.
According to her, there is a proposal from the human capital department to designate a driver from City Police to transport her in her private vehicle, “should I choose to retain the transport allowance, or alternatively to relinquish my transport allowance to enjoy full use of the official vehicle”.
“The former option is impractical and poses various risks and liabilities, for example in the event of an accident or bodily harm against me in my capacity as mayor as well as the designated driver seconded from City Police, using my private vehicle,” she states in the letter.
The mayor is also scared that her vehicle might not be granted access to certain places.
“There seems to be a lack of clarity and consistency in how this policy is applied - giving room for broad interpretation. I am of the view that the office of the mayor holds a certain level of esteem as a political office and should have, at minimum, a level of safety, security and VIP standing and discretion as far as the use of official vehicles and designated drivers from City Police (is concerned),” she adds.
Coincidently, the letter surfaces at a time when talk is rife in the City corridors that plans are afoot by the Windhoek municipal council to pass a condonation that will legitimsie the mayor’s alleged double benefits.
If the condonation passes, Gawanas will go scot-free and continue, and the status quo will remain.
Over the weekend, City spokesperson Harold Akwenye confirmed the mayor’s dual benefits.
“It is true that we have communicated to her on several occasions to kindly exercise her option… to date, she didn’t respond,” he said.
Asked about the remedial steps the City will take to recoup its money, Akwenye referred the paper to MC chairperson Ndeshihafela Larandja.
On the alleged condonation being concocted, he said: “At this moment, the condonation is corridor talk.”
New Era has it on good authority that a condonation was discussed at the last MC meeting. Larandja was absent.
Her fellow Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) member Jürgen Hecht stood in for her.
“Whatever is discussed at management committee level is confidential until it gets tabled onto our next council meeting,” Hecht said.
Gawanas’ immediate predecessor, Affirmative Repositioning (AR) leader Job Amupanda, chose a transport allowance during his year-long stint.
A seat in the Windhoek municipal council comes with an array of lucrative perks and benefits.
As things stand, the Windhoek mayor receives a monthly salary of N$43 000, while the deputy takes home N$39 000.
The MC chairperson is entitled to a monthly salary of N$36 000, while the remaining four management committee members receive N$32 000.
The eight ordinary councillors are paid N$30 000 each.
On the transport front, the deputy mayor gets N$8 700 per month, while the MC chairperson gets N$8 000.
Management committee members receive N$7 000 as transport allowance, while ordinary councillors get N$6 000.
On top of this, the monthly allowance for council meetings is N$2 300, MC and extraordinary meetings N$1 500, while workshops, presentations and site visits earn councillors N$1 000.
These generous allowances may have enticed others to also want a piece of the cake. AR founder and former mayor Amupanda faces an internal revolt for the first time. His fellow activists have made it clear that it should be their time to eat.
In a widely-circulated letter, AR spokesperson Simon Amunime and head of elections Paulus Kathanga are accusing Amupanda of insatiable greed.
They are demanding that AR’s two representatives, Amupanda and Ilse Keister, be rotated to allow activists who are unemployed and “blacklisted by the regime” to make a living.
“What is the harm of allowing other activists to take up the seats at CoW, and allow them to prove their leadership and allow them to make a living with that N$30 000?” they asked.
Responding, AR’s legal head Stanley Kavetu said Amupanda was never against the proposed rotation.
“Rotation should not be based on creating employment, but on a strategy on what we would like to achieve in the City. Rotation based on employment-creation was discussed and dismissed. But the principle of rotation itself was not dismissed,” Kavetu explained.
At the said meeting, pro-rotation activists were asked to come up with a strategy, he added.
In their letter, Amunime and Kathanga also accuse Amupanda of corruption and being used to fight private interests under the guise of AR.
They are threatening to report him to the anti-graft commission.
“There is a fiduciary duty on every activist to report corruption, whether you are on good or bad terms with anyone. They shouldn’t even threaten. If corruption exists, go to the Anti-Corruption Commission,” Kavetu stated.
Gawanas will hold a press conference this week. She promised to leave no stone unturned.
“I hope that your sources can also tell you how officials and the MC are stopping development plans worth N$300 million,” she said.
According to the mayor, the City has blocked electricity supply to orphanage homes that owe N$50 000, while its employees who owe close to N$200 000 remain unscathed.
She also claims that access to N$2 million in the mayoral fund “to care for the most vulnerable” has been blocked.
Her hands are tied, and there is no room to manoeuvre.
“I have been begging the officials to clean the City since January. They only started in May. We received N$7 million in January for solid waste, but they delay and delay. Why is the MC not disciplining [strategic executives] SEs? Or SEs to discipline managers who are salary collectors?” she asked rhetorically.
Caption (Gawanas) Perks… Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas.
Photo: City of Windhoek