3.2.2009

Namibia: Political Axe Falls On Bob

IN what is widely seen as a political move, the Director General of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Bob Kandetu, was given the boot yesterday.

It followed a meeting of the parastatal's board. The board and the Swapo Party have targeted Kandetu - a ruling party stalwart since the pre-Independence era - for some time now. As the campaign to oust him gathered steam, Kandetu's exit from the national broadcaster appeared increasingly inevitable, and since the start of the year it has been a matter of when rather than if. Kandetu yesterday confirmed he had been given his marching orders but said he needed time to think about the latest developments related to his controversial stint at the NBC before commenting further.

Sources at the NBC said the acting chairperson of the board, Frieda Shimbuli, broke the news at a briefing arranged only for NBC television and radio and excluding other media. Contacted for comment, Shimbuli wanted to know how The Namibian had got hold of her cellphone number and said she could only talk to the newspaper at a later stage. The board started meeting at around 12h00 and gave Kandetu the dismissal letter three hours later. "I am fired. I won't say goodbye," is all Kandetu reportedly told staff members as he walked out of the building. It is believed that the board will allege that Kandetu was "incompetent".


Human Resources Manager Theophilus Karipi will act in the DG position for an indefinite time. Karipi spent eight months on paid suspension in 2007 after the release of an independent forensic report on the affairs of the institution between the years 2000 and 2005. It was alleged that he arranged his own as well as two other staff members' voluntary retrenchments, so that they could cash in retrenchment packages, before they were reinstated. The case against him was never heard. Kandetu's axing came as no surprise to many in Swapo, nor to political observers.

Last month the party called for his immediate dismissal after the the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) flag fleetingly flashed onto the screen after President Hifikepunye Pohamba read his New Year's speech on December 31. Swapo Information Secretary Jerry Ekandjo swiftly issued a media statement to put the blame "squarely at the feet of Bob Kandetu", who he claimed could "not escape being an accomplice, either directly or indirectly, to the deed". Ekandjo claimed the incident was "scandalous" and orchestrated by members of the RDP to "defame" Pohamba.

Swapo claims that Kandetu has openly advocated himself as "a torchbearer of the RDP" and is a known active RDP member. Kandetu has denied RDP links in the past, saying that he had supported Hidipo Hamutenya's campaign for the Swapo presidency because the party had endorsed the three-candidate contest. The two other candidates at the time were Pohamba and Prime Minister Nahas Angula. Kandetu has emphasised he remains a Swapo member. Kandetu was also regarded a close ally of suspended NBC board chairperson Ponhele ya France, against whom the board passed a vote of no confidence in October. The board also recommended that Ya France be dismissed by Information Minister Joel Kaapanda.

They accused Ya France of "unbecoming behaviour" after newspaper reports in which he claimed to have been dismissed by Kaapanda. Shimbuli said they verified the claims with Kaapanda and were informed by the Minister that he had lost trust and confidence in Ya France after the chairperson went public with the claim. Last year The Namibian reported on a secret Cabinet document which the Minister had prepared and which recommended Ya France's dismissal because of irreconcilable differences. In that document, Kaapanda alleged that Ya France was passing information the two of them had discussed in confidence to Kandetu. The Minister's strategy was not to make any public announcement on Ya France's dismissal once Cabinet had approved it.
Christof Maletsky (namibian)

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