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Know your civil servant - Driving the public service for 33 years

2023-09-29  Correspondent

Know your civil servant - Driving the public service for 33 years

They say that nothing beats a good dose of patience, persistence, and perseverance. And for George Booi Phillip, truer words have never been spoken. 

Phillip is a driver at the Prime Minister’s Bureau in the Office of the Prime Minister, is seemingly the epitome of tenacity.

Phillip is the longest-serving, current full-time employee at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). He has been in government ever since independence and this year marks the 33rd anniversary of his joining the civil service. Phillip joined public services in 1990 at the age of 21.

“I am the longest serving staff member left in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) at the moment. I have served all Prime Ministers and worked with all permanent secretaries (now executive directors). I have also seen a lot of OPM staff members come and go,” he said.

Phillip was born on 5 January 1969 in Prieska, a town on the southern bank of the Orange River, in the Northern Cape province, South Africa. He later moved to Rehoboth where he grew up and attended school and currently resides.

While acknowledging that there are also still some OPM staff members who served OPM for decades such as Rachel Chibas, Marry Maswahu, Magdalena Alcock, John Ekandjo and Chrissie Kaakunga, Philip maintained that he is the longest remaining OPM staff member.

“They all found me here” he boasts.

Phillip told New Era that prior to independence he worked as a store man at Pupkewitz garage between 1985 and 1989.

As OPM driver, Phillip is responsible for transporting authorised personnel, delivery and collection of mail documents and other items between the OPM and other government offices, ministries, and agencies. He collects and delivers mail and other communications from government agencies and other institutions.  

Questioned about what glued him to the public service for centuries, Phillip believes working for the government is his
true calling and the perfect employer.

“I was inspired by the former Prime Minister and now President of Namibia Hage Geingob and the current Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila who he considers to be his role models citing their hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

The outspoken Philip further hailed the civil service for the perks and other benefits citing that, despite the monthly salaries, which might be at par with what others are paid in the private sector, the government ensures that all employees are properly taken care of in terms of housing, health, and overall wellness.

He maintained that there is also peace of mind and a greater sense of responsibility that comes with being a civil servant. This keeps me going,” he reveals.

Phillip claimed to serve in his country’s civil service as a driver for the past 31-years without any disciplinary hearing or any sort of misconduct.  

“I respect work, and I always make sure all the OPM’s documents are delivered to the relevant offices on time because those are very important documents and sometimes require an instant response, hence I make sure those documents do not sleepover; I don’t delay” he said.

On the public misconception about government employees being unproductive, Phillip debunked as false, the perception that government employees are lazy and largely inefficient.  

He argued that to hold civil servants to a particular yardstick in terms of their performances, based on what the general masses presume as deliverables is unfair, since the civil is primarily in the business of laying down the regulations on which the work of state-owned enterprises, for example, is underpinned.


Memorable moments

Queried on with regards to some of his memorable moments as a public servant, Phillip said, “I feel privileged to have worked and served all five Prime Ministers that includes Nahas Angula,  Geingob, the late Theo-Ben Gurirab and the current Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

I also worked with the former Permanent Secretaries such Judge President Petrus Damaseb, ambassador Peingeondjabi Shipoh, Nama Goabab, Festus Shetu Hamutenya, Steve Katjiuanjo, special advisor to the Prime Minister, advocate Nangula Mbako, first secretary to cabinet, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, Mathew Gowaseb, Laurence Kaimu, Jan Smit, first driver of the first Deputy Prime Minister Petrus Petersen, Ria Smit, Revival Smit, and the late commissioner Wilma Deetlefs,” he narrates his journey in the public service.


Future plans

The long serving civil servant did not mince his words when he stated that he habours no plans to leave the public sector anytime soon. He commits his remaining five years before retirement to the public service as a token of appreciation for all the opportunities that the government accorded to him. “I will be here until my retirement after which I will go home and focus on farming,” he said with a chuckle.

As a parting shot, Phillip maintained that he wishes is for the young people to learn to build on the foundation that we established but pick where others have left and assist the government in attaining the country’s development goals” he enthused.

2023-09-29  Correspondent

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