!Gawaxab declines SSC board fees

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KEETMANSHOOP, 13 March 2014 - Managing Director of Old Mutual African Operations Johannes !Gawaxab delivers remarks during the inauguration of the Mutual Keetmanshoop Mall on Thursday. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

Toivo Ndjebela

Windhoek-Social Security Commission (SSC) board chairman Johannes !Gawaxab says he has not taken a cent in board fees since his appointment in June 2015, including when driving out of town for company business.

In an interview with New Era yesterday, which is to be published in full on Friday, !Gawaxab said he took a conscious decision to not draw board fees, as he was more interested in turning around the fortunes of the state-owned company, than amassing a personal fortune.

!Gawaxab, a well-off business leader who in 2015 took early retirement from his cushy job as Old Mutual CEO for African Operations, is now the executive chairman of Eos Capital, a wholly Namibian-owned private equity firm that manages the N$460 million Allegrow Fund.

The SSC has been in the media spotlight in recent weeks, partly as a result of its acquisition of land that was said to be over-priced and its investment in the SME Bank,whose board and top executives were recently removed from office, following allegations of questionable investments in South Africa.

!Gawaxab, who was reluctant to comment on media reports about the SSC, said he accepted the board chairmanship because he believes he and fellow commissioners have what it takes to turn around the fortunes of the company.

“I’ve decided I’m not earning any board fees. For nearly two years I haven’t taken a cent in board fees,” he told New Era.

“I wanted to go and demonstrate that it’s not about fees. I’ve decide to go and give this thing a chance, together with the commissioners. It’s not insurmountable.”
He said: “I feel guilty to take any fees when the organisation is in the state it is in. But there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

“Even if the board drives to Waterberg, I don’t take board fees. It’s about doing public good here.

“It’s a genuine effort to turn things around. So, if you don’t draw a fee for two years and people still don’t trust your intention here – that you are there to help the organisation – it’s going to be very sad.”

Despite the negative press, !Gawaxab says he remains positive about the future prospects of SSC.

“It’s a big challenge, because it has got so much legacy. Turning around SSC is not going to be an event, it’s going to be a process and we have started that process,” he said.

“We need, at the board level, to get everybody around the same objective and that’s what we have done so far. We have agreed a proper clear corporate strategy.

“It will take time, because you don’t change the culture of an organisation within a day. It’s a challenge that I’ve taken on to do public good. In June I’ll be two years at Social Security [Commission].

The SSC yesterday declined to divulge how much its board chairperson is entitled to in board fees, but said such fees are determined by the guidelines provided by the ministry of public enterprises. SSC is classified as a Tier 2 company and its board fees are at a median level, as stipulated in the new guidelines.

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