…Amid looming mass retrenchments
Acting Chief Executive Officer of financially troubled railway parastatal, TransNamib, Hippy Tjivikua seems to have gained the favour of the Board and is set to be unveiled as the substantive boss of the company in the next few weeks, The Patriot can reveal. The Patriot can also confirm that the Paul Smit-led TransNamib board of directors notified the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, last week that the appointment of the CEO’s position has reached conclusive stages and they are expected to confer the incumbent. The move comes amid a labour crisis that has about 400 employees facing the axe, although the figure could be higher. The appointment, however, will be subject to Cabinet deliberations early next month before a public announcement is made.
Sources close to the parastatal also believe that the move to appoint Tjivikua on a full-time basis is aimed at speeding up the retrenchment process, which was set in motion last year following financial difficulties which saw employees downing tools demanding salary increments. Tjivikua was on record last week vowing that the company would execute the retrenchment in line with the country’s labour laws to avoid backlash. Although the move to appoint a substantive CEO is meant to create momentum for the railway parastatal that has been experiencing financial challenges, the company is facing a herculean task of paying off about 400 employees that will be sent home on voluntary retirement. TransNamib has over 1 500 employees on its books and spends about N$30 million monthly on salaries.
TransNamib has also failed to come up with remedies to improve the 45 percent of the country’s railway network, which is not usable resulting in most companies preferring to transport their bulk cargo by road. However, not all board members are keen to have the acting CEO confirmed as they are divided on who to appoint. Minister Jooste confirmed this week that he received a heads-up that the selection process for the CEO has been concluded although he played his cards close to his chest and refused to reveal the identity of the chosen TransNamib CEO. The TransNamib Board received applications from different candidates recently including the acting CEO.
“I first want to clarify something important. TransNamib is still fully accountable to the Minister of Works and Transport and this will only change once the new legislation is passed to implement the Hybrid Governance Model whereby all the commercial SOEs will be moved to the Ministry of Public Enterprises. The recruitment process for the CEO is fully under the authority of the Board of Directors and they have assured me at a meeting held last Thursday that the process is almost concluded. The Board will then forward the results of the evaluation with their preferred candidate to the line minister to be tabled for Cabinet endorsement,” Jooste told The Patriot this week.
He also added that, “I have no further details since this is a governance matter where the shareholder should typically not be involved. Not having a fulltime CEO in place is never a good thing for any company and SOEs are no different. The Board had valid reasons to delay this process but they made a commitment to conclude the recruitment towards the end of 2016 and we all look forward to welcome the new CEO to lead this important company as soon as is practicable.” Although Jooste remains reluctant to confirm the issue, The Patriot understands that Tjivikua also seems to enjoy relative political support for the job and has also been credited for keeping the train on track despite a stringent budget over the past two years. He was also instrumental in the purchasing of new locomotives recently from Brazil, breaking the monopoly of the Chinese who in the past have creamed close to N$300 million for the acquisition of locomotives which are now largely obsolete. The acting CEO could also not deny or confirm whether he has landed the position saying, “I am not yet certain if that is what is going to happen as the process is entirely with the board.”
Efforts to get comment from Smit before going to print were, however, futile.