Who’s the boss at Okahandja?By: JANA-MARI SMITH
REGINA ALUGODHI, the former chief executive officer of the Okahandja municipality, yesterday blamed Minister Jerry Ekandjo of failure to follow proper procedure when he sent a letter to the management committee chairperson with instructions to appoint an acting CEO.
“Jerry wrote the letter to an individual, which is not legal,” Alugodhi told about 50 disgruntled and bewildered municipal maintenance staff yesterday morning after they refused to continue work unless matters at the municipality were clarified. Alugodhi referred to a letter that was addressed to chairperson Kristine Nunuhe and leaked to the press last week, in which Ekandjo instructed Nunuhe to appoint an acting CEO “in your capacity as chairperson of the management committee”.
The letter was sent last Tuesday and Alugodhi has refused to surrender her post to date. Alugodhi dismissed the “rumours” that she was told to go and told municipal staff yesterday that she “received no letter. If I go, I go according to procedures”.
Since last week, confusion has reigned at the municipality, as workers try to juggle contradicting instructions and information from Alugodhi and the management committee of the town council.
Yesterday, Alugodhi threatened staff that they would lose their jobs if they continued to obey orders from the management committee. She warned the maintenance crew yesterday that they should not “take orders from the management committee”.
Yesterday morning, sparks flew at the municipality as Alugodhi made it clear she was still in charge. Dozens of workers downed tools and demanded clarification.
“We just want to know who do we work for. We cannot tolerate this anymore. Things have completely spiralled out of control,” a maintenance worker said.
A colleague described the situation as “confusing” and said there “are rumours about the Minister’s letter. We need to know what is going on”.
Ismael Heigomab, a maintenance foreman, who was ordered by the management committee to change the locks on Alugodhi’s door on Friday and then again by Alugodhi, said yesterday: “We may not take instructions from the council. We may not take instructions from Alugodhi. So who do we take instructions from?”
Alugodhi drove to the municipal workshop to address the assembled workers and after another emotional outburst, she assured them that “I am still in office” but admitted there is a problem “with me and the management committee”.
Alugodhi asked the employees to continue their work and added, “I stay in office whether you do your work or not”.
Although Alugodhi talked calmly towards the end of the meeting, witnesses say she verbally attacked the maintenance crew yesterday morning, when she was informed of their refusal to work unless the management issue was cleared up.
Alugodhi admitted she had “threatened to chase away people”. She told one of the men that she had threatened to fire him because “I am the CEO and you are under me and you must do what I tell you to do”.
Alugodhi apologised several times to the staff and admitted that she “completely lost it this morning because I was emotional. Because I feel there is disrespect from you, the workers, towards me.”
In an interview with the media later, she said it would have been “wise” of the minister’s office to send the letter to her “but I have received nothing from the minister or the permanent secretary. I don’t know why”.
Alugodhi yesterday said she was writing a letter to the minister to get clarification on the situation.
She also claimed that she had spoken to the permanent secretary, Erastus Negonga, who told her that he was “not aware of the letter”.
Alugodhi told reporters that the Ministry had to “intervene”. She said “if the Ministry is sitting back and not intervening” things will continue to spiral out of control.
She said it is likely the Minister wrote the letter to Nunuhe last week because he did not have the “full information”.
By the time of going to press, the Okahandja maintenance crew was still waiting for answers from the management committee.