Gobabis in million-dollar salary dispute with manager

Steve Adonis

The Gobabis municipality is locked in a legal dispute with its manager for health and community services, Steve Adonis, over unpaid salaries, which have accumulated over 10 years.

A member of the Gobabis management committee, Isak de Beer, blamed the situation on “a personal vendetta” by human resources manager Frieda Shimakeleni against Adonis.

“Frieda is looking for loopholes and has excuses not to pay Adonis. That is my experience,” the councillor says.
Documents show Adonis was owed N$844 840 by 2021.

Speaking to Desert Radio this week, Adonis said this money has since accumulated.

“They were to pay me in two years’ time. Nothing has been paid since 2021 . . . It is more than N$1,2 million,” he said.

During the same period, the municipality was involved in a stand-off with its transport officer, whom it allegedly owed N$1,8 million in unpaid salaries.

According to a letter written by the municipal acting human resources officer dated 5 November 2021, chief executive Sophia Eises instructed the human resources officer to adjust his salary, but this was refused.

In correspondence with the chief executive last year, Adonis said he no longer had confidence in the HR department in further handling the matter.

“During our verbal meeting on 15 August 2023, you indicated that my file would be referred to HR for payment. On numerous occasions, I explicitly informed you that I was not comfortable with the HR division handling my case as the HR division is implicated in this matter,” he said.

Despite the circumstances, management committee chairperson Sylvester Binga appointed Adonis as acting chief executive in 2021.

Binga did not answer his phone when called for comment this week.

In the meantime, labour consultant Diaz Kavu, who is representing Adonis in the Labour Court, told Desert Radio: “He was the acting chief executive officer (CEO) as appointed by the council, of which I believe he could not fast-track his payment because he was conflicted in that regard.”

A Gobabis municipal council meeting of 10 February 2022 recommended the administration to seek a legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General on the municipal transport officer’s case.

The same meeting also resolved to approve that the municipality pay out Adonis an amount of N$500 000 with immediate effect.

It approved that the remaining balance of N$318 840,54 would be paid in instalments of N$26 125,23 over a period of 12 months.

“The case of Mr Adonis has come many times to us, and we have discussed this problem . . . The problem is that HR at Gobabis did not want to discuss the problem,” De Beer said.

Shimakeleni refused to divulge why there have been issues with Adonis’ salary.

“You are speaking to the wrong person. You can talk to my CEO,” she said this week.

Shimakeleni was slapped with 25 charges last year.

She was accused of disobeying work-related orders, leaking confidential municipal council information to unauthorised persons, and interfering or tampering with evidence in an unrelated investigation, among others.

She was on suspension on full pay with five other officials at the time.

Despite another attempt in 2023 by Eises to have Adonis’ payments made, this did not happen, documents seen by Desert Radio reveal.

Eises this week said she could not comment on the matter as it was before the courts, but asked for a list of written questions which went unanswered by the time of going to print.

After numerous calls to her office, she replied via text, saying: “This case is coming from 2014. I joined the council in June 2022 while this case was on.”

Eises, however, referred this publication to spokesperson Frederick Uetele, to whom she had sent the questions emailed to her.

“I did not receive any questions . . . go write what you want,” Uetele said this week.
The dispute is now headed for arbitration in the Labour Court between 8 and 9 March, Kavu said.

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