The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) Rössing branch has come to the defence of member and current president, Ismael Kasuto, who has been accused of requesting a payment from the union towards legal costs totalling N$190 000.
MUN Rössing branch secretary Fanuel Kwedhi says Kasuto, who was a National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) member at the time, did not request any payment in 2017. MUN is an affiliate union of the NUNW.
Kwedhi says the payment was made because Kasuto was performing the union’s duty as per the objective of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) constitution, which requires all its affiliated members to pay their 10% dues.
“At that moment, only the MUN was in good standing with the NUNW, and this is what prompted the MUN Rössing branch to write to the regional chairperson, Abiud Kapere, and copy the acting then-president, Mayemelo Kalumbu, to assist our branch member with the legal costs payment because he was still an MUN paid-up member,” Kwedhi says.
Kasuto denies asking the MUN to pay his legal fees.
“How the MUN ended up paying my legal fees, I don’t know. I just requested my branch to look into it, because I was taken to court because of my affiliation to the MUN,” he says.
This comes after a message circulated on WhatsApp, accusing Kasuto of using MUN money to cover a personal matter.
The message reads: “On 26 October 2017, Kasuto was interdicted by the Windhoek High Court not to enter the NUNW premises after he was kicked out as its president for gross negligence and divisive tendencies.
“After Kasuto failed to pay his legal fees, the court ordered the deputy sheriff to attach and take into execution all of Kasuto’s movable and immovable properties for auctioning.”
The author of the message claimed MUN money was paid without consulting or informing the union’s national executive committee and without the authorisation of the MUN’s general membership.
Kasuto was not the MUN’s president at the time.
“If Kasuto was able to … access MUN money for his personal gain while he was not even a MUN president, what about now that he is a signatory to all MUN accounts?” reads the message.
Kwedhi says all the MUN members’ cases are covered by the union’s funds, as per their established procedures.
The payment had to be made because Kasuto was at the NUNW on behalf of the MUN and not in his personal capacity, he says.
“This request was made because Kasuto had to be an NUNW affiliate (MUN) member as a prerequisite to being elected, and the work he was undertaking was on behalf of the union’s interests,” Kwedhi says.
Kasuto says the reason he was taken to court by NUNW members was because he reminded them of their affiliation fees that were not paid up.
At the time, the NUNW was allegedly struggling to pay administrative staff salaries and water supply to the head office was cut.
“This is currently the challenge that is being raised by the Office of the Labour Commissioner about unions not submitting their audited financial reports. That was the key issue that led to my dismissal at the NUNW,” he says.
Kalumbu and former secretary general Ebben Zarondo did not respond to messages sent to them via WhatsApp, nor did they answer calls.
The former treasurer, Saara Kandapo, hung up the phone when contacted for comment.