• TILENI MONGUDHI
FORMER Bank of Namibia (BoN) banking supervision director Romeo Nel has opposed a proposal to expand governor Johannes !Gawaxab’s powers – including the authority to block commercial banks from hiring or firing their executives.
Nel was reshuffled this month as part of a shake-up in the banking supervision department.
His transfer follows a pattern at the central bank of officials who challenge !Gawaxab’s decisions allegedly being reassigned or demoted.
Last year, two senior officials who were seen as challenging the governor, were moved to other positions.
Nel has been shifted to a newly created position of technical adviser to the governor in what is seen as a demotion.
Two individuals familiar with the matter told The Namibian that Nel was sidelined due to his dissenting stance on proposals that would increase !Gawaxab’s authority and influence over commercial banks.
Another source, however, defended !Gawaxab’s approach, saying he wants to enforce “fresh ideas” at the institution.
As director of banking supervision at the BoN, Nel was involved in high-profile cases such as the shutting down of the SME Bank.
His demotion comes at a time when the central bank is drafting new banking institutions legislation to replace the current 1998 law.
This law regulates commercial banks and determines the eligibility criteria for starting a commercial bank and to safeguard public funds.
It mainly governs commercial banks and who should be allowed to start a commercial banking business, as a means of protecting the public’s money deposited into such banks.
!Gawaxab allegedly wanted to add to his powers as governor of the central bank the right to block commercial banks from firing their executives.
BoN spokesperson Kazembire Zemburuka, however, denies these allegations and says the bill will soon be made public.
Under the current law, the central bank conducts a fitness and probity test to determine whether a person a commercial bank intends to hire has integrity and can be entrusted with people’s money.
Zemburuka claims Nel has been promoted.
“By no means is the position a downgrade. On the contrary, the technical adviser is a position graded higher than Mr Nel’s previous role,” he told The Namibian in an emailed response.
Zemburuka said Nel will still serve on the bank’s executive committee with added responsibilities. There is, however, evidence that another manager at the central bank refused to take that position last year.
Nel did not respond to questions sent to him by The Namibian since last week.
Former on-site examination deputy director Ancois Plaatje replaces Nel as the head of the banking supervision department in an acting capacity.
She has worked at the central bank for 19 years in various positions. Karin Elago was appointed as acting deputy director of on-site examinations.
Moudi Hangula, the current principal analyst in the national payment systems department, was promoted to branch manager at the BoN’s Oshakati office.
!GAWAXAB’S YEAR OF LONG KNIVES
Nel was not the only central bank executive to have faced Gawaxab’s axe.
The Namibian has learnt that Johanna Iiyambula, the BoN’s director of finance and administration, was demoted and had her salary reduced around August last year.
She too was allegedly moved after her relationship with !Gawaxab broke down. She refused to accept an appointment as technical adviser in the office of the governor.
This is the same position that is now occupied by Nel.
Zemburuka denied this version, saying Iyambula requested to be moved.
Sources say !Gawaxab was not happy with the performance of some of his officials.
Some sources lauded Iyambula for steering the ship as head of finance before !Gawaxab’s arrival at the bank. The governor allegedly targeted her in meetings.
“She either refused to approve certain expenditures, or she knows something worthy of getting her removed by the powers that be,” a source familiar with the matter said.
Iyambula declined to comment when approached by The Namibian, saying: “Please contact our communications office.”
She has since been replaced by Lloyd Londt, who previously worked with !Gawaxab at Old Mutual.
Last year also saw BoN director of exchange control and legal services Bryan Eiseb being seconded to the Ministry of Mines and Energy as acting executive director, replacing Simeon Negumbo who retired last year.
Despite it appearing to be a temporary move to help clean up the alleged corruption at the ministry, his colleagues believe he will not be returning to the central bank as long as !Gawaxab is around.
Eiseb, who is also the chairperson of the Namdia board, has in the past worked at the police as a drug law-enforcement commander.
Two people familiar with BoN matters told The Namibian that Eiseb became “undesirable” before his secondment was approved.
“He put his foot down and refused to act on questionable instructions by the powers that be,” a source said.
Eiseb last week said he took up the secondment to advance his career and find different avenues to serve the country.
“I was not forced or coerced by anyone,” he said.
THE FIC CASE
Leonie Dunn moved from being head of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to deputy central bank governor.
She was appointed by the president and the minister of finance.
Some say her ‘promotion’ was to move her away from the FIC.
Some sources speculate that her removal was linked to weakening the central’s bank’s approach to the Fishrot corruption scandal.
She is said to have prepared to investigate more people implicated in the Fishrot saga.
The Namibian has learnt that the central bank is set to fund Dunn and information technology head Masorry Ickua for a leadership development programme at Harvard University in the United States of America.
The training will cost N$1 million for the two.
The Namibian raised red flags about !Gawaxab’s appointment at the central bank in 2020.
At the time !Gawaxab denied suggestions that his appointment as the head of the central bank was politically motivated and meant to curtail investigations into the Fishrot corruption scandal.
“I did not come to the bank to protect certain people. People think I have been sent to the Bank of Namibia to kill Fishrot; whatever is with [the] law-enforcement agencies cannot be protected,” he said.
- This article has been produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit. Contact us from your secure email at [email protected]