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Smith: TransNamib strike resolves nothing

2022-08-03  Edward Mumbuu

Smith: TransNamib strike resolves nothing

Even if employees at the cash-strapped TransNamib down tools, the industrial action will change nothing, CEO Johny Smith said on Tuesday while also warning workers of the consequences of a strike on their pockets.

The rail entity faces a crippling strike in the coming days after failed salary negotiations. In no uncertain terms, Smith, flanked by new TransNamib (TN) board chairman Lionel Matthews, said the struggling parastatal is in no position to affect any salary increment in the foreseeable future. 

The strike, which looks imminent, will only do more harm than good to an institution in dire financial straits.  “Any form of industrial action will derail progress. Given the current economic realities, I would once again in closing like to re-emphasise to our employees that any form of industrial action will not yield any desirable results for anyone concerned,” Smith candidly said. 

At the same press conference, which was aimed to provide an update on TN’s management regarding the looming strike, Smith said the company will deploy measures to soften the impact of the strike on the company’s operations.

This follows after Namibia Transport Workers and Allied Workers Union (Natau) and TN reached an out-of-court settlement on 27 July, which stipulates the workers will cast their votes on 12 August via a secret ballot.

The executive appealed to employees to be cognizant of the precarious state the entity finds itself.

“Should employees, however, choose to proceed with the industrial action, the company will apply the no work no-pay principle during the strike period,” he promised. 

While the present remains bleak, TN has set its sights on breaking even by 2023. This is despite the fact that it loses N$10 million every month. “For the next nine to 12 months, management plans to improve the company’s financial position by utilising funding received from the government,” he added. 

During the current financial year, TN received N$175 million from Treasury to improve rolling stock capacity and infrastructure conditions. 

Among others, TN will refurbish 12 locomotives with this subvention.

“From a safety perspective, TransNamib is implementing a rail safety plan to improve the conditions for the rolling stock and rail infrastructure,” the CEO noted. Equally ambitious was Matthews, the new sheriff in town, who is optimistic about the next five years. 

With the much-talked-about green hydrogen project, oil finds and several mines that will start operations, the rail entity is well-positioned to benefit from the logistic opportunities that will accrue from these enterprises. Monthly board meetings are lined up to ensure management does not veer off the rails.

“We will embark on monthly operational board meetings from now until March 2023 to work with the management as a short-term oversight to change the trajectory of operational, customer service and financial outcomes in a positive manner,” he said. 

He dismissed assertions that the board meetings were just another money-making scheme. “We are not here to make fees… I can even donate [board fees] to charity,” he said, adding that his sole interest is to overturn TN’s fortunes. 

The chattered accountant wants TN to become the best company to work for.



The Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre, for which TN paid N$150 million to own outright, is said to be a worthwhile investment. “Business has revived,” Matthews said. Through this investment in the historic facility, the railway company rescued 166 jobs, he boasted. 



TN claimed the union took a decision to strike without having fully complied with the strike rules issued by the conciliator on 7 July – citing the strike could have been illegal. 

The court granted TN a temporary interdict, restraining Natau from proceeding with the strike as planned. 

The two opposing factions also agreed that should the majority of the employees vote in favour of the industrial action, Natau shall inform TN of the results within 48 hours. 



A forensic report into the veracity of alleged maleficence at TN by audit firm Ernst and Young instructed the now defunct public enterprises ministry or the TN board to institute disciplinary action against employees and executives who failed to meet their performance indicators.

The public enterprises ministry is now a department under the ministry of finance. The leaked forensic report laid bare a myriad of irregularities at the rail entity – ranging from ineffective and inadequate utility costs to dodgy contracts. Last year, Nampa reported the over-compensation of non-performing executives was one of the major issues at the struggling entity. 

Each executive is believed to be taking home no less than N$100 000 in monthly salaries, a vehicle allowance of N$15 000 and N$6 000 in fuel allowance. The executives were also paid performance bonuses, despite the absence of a performance management system. On the day, Matthews declined to entertain questions emanating from the report. 

“We are not privy to that report. It is unfortunate that it was leaked,” he said. He, however, indicated that when the report is made public, recommendations will be followed to the letter.


2022-08-03  Edward Mumbuu

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