Workers at the Zambezi Waterfront and Tourism Park (ZWTP), which recently closed amidst claims of insolvency, financial impropriety and maladministration, on Monday petitioned Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu, whom they alerted to a series of allegations.
Irate workers, who face the axe through a retrenchment process planned for late May, lifted the veil on what they claim to be financial impropriety, self-enrichment and conflict of interest by a senior board member in a 16-point petition that they handed over to Governor Sampofu on Monday.
ZWTP, which cost government over N$100 million to construct and was expected to have numerous financial spin-offs and create jobs for locals in the tourism sector, closed recently with claims of financial impropriety, maladministration and suspicious “sitting allowances”, among others.
The petition was handed to Sampofu, who did not respond immediately but informed the union representing ZWTP staff, the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (NAPWU), that he would convey the concerns and allegations raised by the workers with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
The petition contains damning allegations against the board of the waterfront, led by Frans Kwala, who could not be reached as his mobile number, as he is reportedly out of the country.
The workers stated in their petition that since the inception of the new board in June 2015 it was clearly indicated to the board that: “a number of complementary components, which were supposed to be completed to enhance the operation were mentioned to them”.
“Unfortunately, all the advice and recommendations were never considered and all activities were put on hold and all operations eventually suspended, leaving the employees in cold,” the petition read in part. The employees further allege that the board based their decision to close the ZWTP on the incompleteness of the management structure, as well as financial difficulties.
“If ZWTP was insolvent, why is the current board – headed by Mr Kwala – paying themselves sitting allowances of half a million, unlike the previous board members, who used to get N$600 as inconvenience allowances,” the workers further said in their petition.
“As employees of the ZWTP we are convinced that we are 100 percent sure that Mr Frans Kwala has got no vision and all his intentions is marred by conflict of interest,” they said in reference to Kwala’s lodge, located within a five kilometre radius from the troubled tourism SOE.
The workers claim Kwala owns a hospitality facility within near Zambezi Waterfront, which they allege closed down because it apparently “failed miserably.”
“How can you give responsibility to a teacher, who has failed elementary mathematics, to go and teach graduates at a university?” they asked rhetorically.
Workers further claim that since the new board was appointed last June, “The board has never wanted to meet the employees of the ZWTP. They even went to the extent of saying ‘we don’t have time to meet with labourers’.”
Other allegations are that a board member assigned his legal firm secretarial duties, for which he is paid N$17 250 each month, despite the fact that there is another company – with a valid contract – to take minutes at board meetings which still bills ZWTP a monthly fee of N$1 000 – seventeen times less than that paid to Kwala.
Approached for comment deputy chairperson of the board Regina Ndopu-Lubinda confirmed to this reporter that board chairperson Frans Kwala is indeed out of the country. She, however, declined to comment on the allegations made by the ZWTP employees.
“As a board we’ve made a decision not to respond to the allegations made by the union. We will, however, engage the union and will comment at a later stage. For now we have no comment,” she said.