By Tileni Mongudhi, 2015-04-16, The Namibian
They are also asking the court to compel government to set aside its decision to appoint their successors in acting capacities. Iita and Negonga are suing the secretary to Cabinet, the Prime Minister, government, the Public Service Commission and those acting in their positions in the case they have lodged at the Labour Court. They want the case to be heard on Wednesday next week.
The two are arguing that laws and procedures were not followed when their contracts were abruptly terminated. In court documents, Negonga is painting a picture of being disrespected and being subjected to harsh treatment by the same government he served as a senior administrator since independence.
Negonga is claiming in an affidavit filed with the court that his current troubles started when he was summoned to former Cabinet secretary Frans Kapofi’s office on 23 July last year.
At the meeting, Negonga says, Kapofi verbally informed him that the government did not like them – Kapofi included. Kapofi has in the meantime been elected to the National Assembly as a Swapo MP, and has been appointed as minister of presidential affairs.
Negonga is also claiming that Kapofi informed him that their employment contracts would not be renewed after 20 March 2015, and that the written notice to that effect would be sent to him later. In the written notice that arrived on 11 September last year, Kapofi informed him that his contract would expire on 20 March 2015. He says Kapofi thanked him for his hard work, commitment and for contributing to successful nation-building.
“Following such a letter and aggrieved by it, I went to my legal adviser who wrote a letter to the first respondent (secretary to Cabinet) dated 9 October 2014,” reads Negonga’s affidavit, adding that the letter to Kapofi argued that the decision to terminate his contract can only be legally binding if the secretary to Cabinet was acting on instructions of a Cabinet directive and or decision, as provided by law.
It further argued that it was not within the Cabinet secretary’s powers to give such a notice. In the letter, Negonga’s lawyer requested documentation proving Cabinet had decided not to renew his client’s contract. When the secretary to Cabinet did not respond to the letter, Negonga went back to his lawyers and requested that they write to the Cabinet secretary and the attorney general to get clarity and certainty on the way forward.
His lawyer wrote another letter on 8 December, stating that the Cabinet secretary’s silence and the fact that they did not respond to his first letter meant there was really no Cabinet directive for not renewing Negonga’s contract. The lawyers informed government in the letter that they had advised Negonga to ignore the notice that his contract would not be renewed.
Negonga says when there was no communication from the office of the Cabinet secretary, he continued executing his duties until 2 April, when he was summoned to the office of the new Cabinet secretary, George Simataa, while he was in a meeting with the gender minister and her deputy.
At Simataa’s office, Negonga says, he was handed a letter which referred to him as the former permanent secretary. Negonga claims he confronted Simataa, who admitted there was no Cabinet decision not to renew his contract. Simataa, according to the affidavit, also admitted that Negonga had not been granted an opportunity to be heard by the Cabinet on the reasons why his services should be retained.
At the meeting, Simataa told Negonga to go to court if he was not satisfied with the decision, Negonga claims. Iita was also verbally informed that his services were no longer wanted after he had initially written to the Cabinet secretary to indicate that he wished to retire.
He however withdrew the letter later when he allegedly realised that something untoward was going on since he had not received a six-month notice and Kapofi had not responded to any of his letters, since Kapofi informed him verbally that the government did not want him to continue in his post as PS after 21 March 2015.
This will be the second time Negonga is taking the government to court in an effort to keep his job. He successfully took legal action in May 2010 to overturn a decision not to renew his appointment as a PS. Sources close to the two PSes have said that apart from procedures allegedly having been flouted and laws ignored, Negonga and
Iita are appalled at how they have been treated. According to the sources, as senior officials who have served government for more than 20 years at that level, they felt that any parting should have been cordial and not hostile and degrading.