NCCI leaders still at loggerheads

By Jade McClune

THE tension between branch leaders of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) and the national leadership reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with the chairperson of the Windhoek branch saying the head office sought “to weaken the branches and render them irrelevant.”

In a recent letter, Walvis Bay branch chairman Johnny Doeseb said the NCCI sought “to centralise all administration functions” and “suppress the independence of the branches and control the members.”

He objected that monthly membership fees now had to be paid into a central account controlled by head office and that only a fixed amount would be paid over to the branches. Sources said no money was ever paid to the branches, resulting in job losses for staff and making operations unworkable.

Doeseb said NCCI head office also failed to honour a loan of N$500 000 taken from the Walvis branch that was repayable by December 2015, based on the written undertakings in July 2015 by the former CEO Tarah Shaanika to do so. Doeseb said N$200 000 remains unpaid.

“At present we only have limited information [regarding potential fraud] contained in draft financial statements unsuccessfully tabled for adoption at meetings held in August 2016 and August 2017, which referred to an amount of N$2 512 103 described as ‘Unknown Expense’ and an amount of N$479 350 described as ‘Fraud’, both to be written off as expenses in the income statement.”

Martin Shipanga, the chairperson of the Windhoek NCCI branch issued a statement last week, saying: “On 11 October 2019 the leadership of several branches of the NCCI met and deliberated on key issues of grave concern. The current state of affairs severely compromises the organization’s ability to be successful.

“The National Council of the NCCI has been operating without the mandate of the members of the organization (duly elected at an Annual General Meeting) while continuously delaying the convening of an AGM, whilst making major decisions with far-reaching consequences for the organization, members and branches.

“Several of the strategic decisions taken have been harmful to the organization, with no regard for the interest of the members of NCCI.” He complained of “the unauthorized extension of the term of the national leadership by delaying the AGM, as required by the constitution of the NCCI. The convening of an AGM should not be delayed any further.

“New structures have been created in isolation and elections held without following due processes in line with sound corporate governance. The branches hold the firm belief that established procedures and the rule of law should be prevail, and condemn the violation of the NCCI constitution.”

Shipanga said there were “deliberate efforts and attempts by the Secretariat” underway with the support of the National Council to “weaken the branches and render them irrelevant.”

CEO Charity Mwiya recently told Confidente that “The main issue with all these challenges that have found their way to the press has been around governance and compliance issues that we are trying to address at branch level. NCCI, just like any other organisation, has a leadership that is accountable and responsible for all its activities.

“I, as the CEO am accountable for anything, particularly issues involving member subscriptions. What we have simply done is to try and give the head office more control on the activities of the chamber and these chairpersons are not happy with it.

“We cannot have branches that want to have power independent of the head office … We had grave concerns at branch level, such as cash handling, which would make accountability difficult for us and we had to plug such loopholes. At times we had situations where we conveyed messages to members through the branches but this information would never reach the members. This is why centralising functions was important.”

Branch leaders in turn said that around N$3 million remains unaccounted for by head office. They also want to know the reason for the repeated postponement of the AGM, with some claiming the AGM could not be held because the head office was unable to provide audited statements.