Engineers clash with Works PS over jobs

Windhoek-There was a heated exchange at the head offices of the Ministry of Works and Transport yesterday when the Namibian Society of Engineers demanded that all posts occupied by Zimbabwean engineering expatriates be immediately advertised.

The engineers, who read out a letter of their grievances to the ministry's permanent secretary, Willem Goeiemann, brought with them copies of 300 curricula vitae of Namibian architects and quantity surveyors, as well as professionals who are currently unemployed, have been retrenched or are employed in other professions just to make a living.

Advertise all positions that were or are currently filled by seconded Zimbabwean staff in the daily papers to allow Namibian professionals the opportunity to apply for all positions, said Tangeni Tshivute, who read the letter of grievances on behalf of the engineers present.

This is the most transparent means to prove whether there are suitably qualified Namibians to take up those posts, as per immigration regulations, Tshivute told the media practitioners crammed into the boardroom, surrounded by 15 other engineers, who accompanied him to demand answers from the ministry.

The tension between local engineers, quantity surveyors, architects and ministry officials came to light after Works and Transport Minister Alpheus !Naruseb two weeks ago sought to have 29 Zimbabwean expatriates exempted from registering with Namibian professional engineering, quantity surveying and architectural bodies.

This was apparently done on the basis that Namibia and Zimbabwe signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 for Zimbabwe to send architects and quantity surveyors to work for the Namibian government and to transfer skills to Namibian professionals.

Reports doing the rounds have it that government spends millions of dollars annually on such expatriates to cover the cost of their allowances, free accommodation and transport, as well as several hundred thousand per engineer employed in the civil service.

The Namibian Society of Engineers argued that the expired memorandum of understanding between Namibia and Zimbabwe should not be extended, as it has failed in its primary objective of skills transfer from seconded professionals to the locals, without even producing a single success story of the intended goals.

We believe that the continued mentoring of our professionals, who are in training, by unregistered graduates is illegal and we would like to advise that the practice be halted with immediate effect, Tshivute emphasised.

He further noted that since 2012, the number of Namibian professionals in various disciplines has significantly increased, and in his view, there was no shortage of the required skills locally.

Goeiemann disagreed, saying the agreement has not failed and has improved the situation at the ministry.

Some of the Zimbabweans have gone beyond the call [of duty]. From the assessment we have done � coming from the regions � the governors are calling, saying we should renew the contracts. We said we will assess and get back to them, Goeiemann responded.

The local engineers contend that there is no valid reason for the continued staff secondment from Zimbabwe to the ministry, and that the memorandum of understanding should not be extended or renewed � given that the five-year agreement expired in May.

Goeiemann, who was bombarded with questions from the assembled engineers, was at pains to emphasise that contrary to what is being said, the Zimbabwean expatriates were indeed registered in their country of origin and some were registered in Namibia.

He said although their contracts have ended, the government needs to give the Zimbabwean professionals at least three months' notice, so that they are able to make the necessary arrangements for their families and their personal affairs, as some have established themselves here.

The PS did not answer all the questions posed by the Namibian engineers, saying the matter is currently with the attorney general, who would at the appropriate time make a comprehensive statement on the issue.

Tshivute in turn noted that the slowdown in the construction industry has led to many experienced Namibian professionals being retrenched, who are willing to take up employment with the Ministry of Works and Transport. Therefore, he contended that Goeiemann's statement to the media, that Namibian professionals do not want to work for government was misleading.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia