Swartbooi orders withdrawal of municipal staff cases

18 Oct 2013 10:10am
KEETMANSHOOP, 18 OCT (NAMPA) – //Karas Regional Governor Bernardus Swartbooi has stepped right into the affairs of the Keetmanshoop Town Council, and ordered them to withdraw disciplinary cases against some staff members.
An agenda of the council’s management committee’s ordinary meeting, which was scheduled for 16 October, indicates that Swartbooi held a meeting with municipal councillors and staff members on 08 October to discuss developmental issues.
“At the end of the meeting, the governor expressed his displeasure with the state of affairs at the Keetmanshoop Municipality. The governor further ordered council to withdraw charges against staff members,” reads the agenda as seen by Nampa.
The same document also shows that Swartbooi instructed the council to consider all factors, make a decision and give him feedback by 15 October.
Some of the staff members facing disciplinary cases are suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Vleermuis; suspended Finance Manager Quinton Visagie; Strategic Executive for Economic Development and Community Services, Jegg Christiaan; as well as suspended Human Resources’ Officer Andre Blaauw.
The CEO, Visagie and Blaauw were suspended with full pay in March this year.
Vleermuis is facing over 15 charges, amongst them allegedly wrongfully appointing a legal practitioner to act on behalf of the council in a labour case between the council and staff member Hansina Isaacks in September 2012.
Blaauw and Visagie are facing charges of negligence and unauthorized expenditure, as well as a refusal to follow council instructions, amongst a host of other charges.
Christiaan, who is not suspended, faces a main charge of refusing to act as CEO when Vleermuis was suspended.
In a response letter to Swartbooi dated 10 October, Keetmanshoop mayor Moses Titus wrote that “some of the issues of dispute are legal issues, based on legal grounds and laid-down procedures”.
He said such legal grounds and procedures might hamper the council’s willingness to comply with Swartbooi’s order to withdraw the cases.
Titus then requested for more time so that the council could sit and deliberate on the matter before making a final decision on whether the cases would be withdrawn or not.
“I humbly appeal that the honourable governor drafts a letter for discussion by council on this issue, or alternatively that councillor Gabriel Freyer - who first made the call for withdrawal - enters a motion for compliance with legal procedures,” Titus stated in the document.
When asked to shed more light on the matter on Thursday, Titus refused to comment, saying he is not in a position to reply.
Meanwhile, the town council faces criticism from staff members and the community at large for allegedly squandering N.dollars 400 000 of its annual legal budget to pay lawyers for disciplinary hearings from July to August this year.
The legal fees’ budget for the 2013/2014 financial year is N.dollars 700 000, of which the above-mentioned amount has already been used in the second month of this financial year.