Minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Utoni Nujoma has been accused of irregularly appointing a relative, Kyllikki Sihlahla, as the new deputy labour commissioner.
According to an internal memo leaked to The Namibian, Nujoma appointed Sihlahla on 1 May this year – a day after long-serving deputy labour commissioner Tuuliki Shikongo retired.
Sources within the ministry, however, say the minister does not have the authority to appoint the deputy labour commissioner without interviews being conducted.
However, Section 120 (1) of the Labour Act, quoted by the minister, states that “the minister must, subject to the laws governing the public service, appoint a labour commissioner and a deputy commissioner …”.
“The position should have been advertised so that those interested could have applied and so that interviews could have taken place,” a source says.
Another source says they were taken by surprise at Sihlahla’s appointment as she was in the process of doing her articles at the office of the Government Attorney.
“She has abandoned her attachment and went to the office. She was supposed to be there for nine months, but she has only been there for two months,” the source says.
Contacted for comment last week, Sihlahla referred The Namibian to the ministry’s public relations department.
However, her husband, Emanuel, on Sunday defended her appointment.
He said the minister has the power to appoint a deputy commissioner, and that those who are complaining are jealous.
“They don’t want others to climb. My wife studied. She was offered a job at TransNamib recently,” he said.
He said Sihlahla is taking part in the Justice Training Centre programme and that she has completed the theoretical component of the programme.
She did her practical hours with government attorneys to be admitted as a legal practitioner, he said.
“She was recalled because no one was capable of running the office in the absence of the labour commissioner. She has been a chief arbitrator from 2008 to 30 September 2014, and was a deputy director from 1 October 2014 to 30 April 2021. Who would then say she does not qualify for this?” Emanuel asked.
“It’s just a coincidence that the minister was appointed last year to the ministry. If related, does it mean my wife must be disadvantaged?” he asked.
Emanuel, however, yesterday admitted that Sihlahla and Nujoma are related, but did not specify in what way.
According to her husband she has an LLB degree from Unisa, a master’s degree in human resources from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a postgraduate diploma in law, specialising in conciliation and arbitration from the University of Namibia.
Nujoma on Friday said the act makes provision for the appointment of a deputy labour commissioner.
He said the act does not, however, provide for the position to be advertised.
“The minister has the power vested in him to appoint a suitable person to the position,” he said.
Shikongo, when contacted for comment, accused Sihlahla and executive director Bro-Matthew Shinguadja of treating the ministry as their “backyard kambashu”.
“They have been bypassing my office. I reported this to the minister of labour and his deputy minister, but nothing has been done. Shinguadja never wanted me to be deputy labour commissioner,” she said.
Shinguadja allegedly retired last year in May, but is still working as the ministry’s executive director.
He is rumoured to be incoming special adviser to the minister, replacing Vicki ya Toivo, Nujoma’s current special adviser.
“Am I the only one who is above 60 in the public service?” Shinguadja asked when contacted for comment.
He also signed off a ministerial response stating the ministry is not aware of the fact that Sihlahla is related to Nujoma.
Markus Kampungu, chairperson of the Public Service Commission, yesterday referred The Namibian to the Office of the Attorney General.
Attorney general Festus Mbandeka said the matter resorts under the labour ministry.
“I therefore cannot comment on the matter,” he said.
Private lawyer Eben de Klerk yesterday said the minister has full discretion to make appointments.
“I don’t believe the Public Service Commission needs to be consulted. The conditions of the Public Service Act must, however, be complied with,” he said.