I AM A VICTIM OF POLITICAL PERSECUTION
On April 21 2016, which is three months ago, I was served with a letter of termination of service by the Zambezi Education Regional Director, Mr. Austin Samupwa, on account of abscondment, in terms of Section 24(5)(a)(1) of the Public Service Act (1995), apparently because “30 days lapsed” without me reporting on duty.
This followed his frustrated attempts to forcefully transfer me to Nankuntwe CS. His efforts to force me away from Kaliyangile CS went to extents of instructing the management of Kaliyangile CS to prevent me from signing in the attendance register, to remove me from the time table by allocating my subjects to other teachers, to invite Police Officers to come and chase me from there, and the HoD to take my chair and table from the staffroom.
I was a teacher at Kaliyangile CS since 2008, and one of the best teachers at that school. As much as I want to continue teaching there, and as learners still need me there, does not mean I wanted to be there forever. This is why I responded positively to the initiation of transferring me from that school, by the Director’s namesake Mr. Austin (Luyana), and it is also why I arranged a cross transfer which the Director rejected without reasons. I was willing to be transferred, however, where to be transferred to requires serious consideration, not only in my case but, by any employee who wish to be transferred.
There are those in the political and security circles, particularly in SWAPO and the State Security, who since 2012 have been hunting me down – even wishing me dead – as the Secretary General of Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG). It appears that through my supervisor at my professional work, the Education Director who is also a regional Mobilizer for SWAPO in Caprivi Strip, they found an immediate assailant against me!
In April 2012, the Governor of Caprivi region, Hon. Lawrence Sampofu, went on local radio station with Hon. Rafael Mbala, and he warned CCG leaders to stop “talking about those people who attacked in Katima Mulilo in 1999” because they risk losing their jobs. Mind you, barely a month ago the same Governor repeated his call for “responsible authorities” to deal with CCG leaders, and just yesterday the Inspector General of Nampol issued a warning to CCG.
The threats of losing our jobs as CCG leaders were egoed at several SWAPO leadership meetings in 2012, and in rallies particularly in 2014. Even the Councillor of Sibbinda then, in 2012, mobilised people to chase me from Kaliyangile CS but the community resisted, and I was lucky that Mr. Lovemore Lupalezwi, the Regional Director then was not a SWAPO machinery but professionally levelheaded and politically cool!
From day one, at the genesis of the transfer issue I was told by Mr. Samupwa to resign or he fires me, just for indicating that I am willing to be transferred closer to town! Following the threat to be fired, I aranged a cross tranfer and the colleague I was to cross with accepted, but, as I stated earlier, it was rejected by the Director with no reason. The Director later decided to transfer me to Nankuntwe CS, knowing very well that I would obviously refuse to go far from town and my family because I had indicated to him that I prefer to be transferred near town, or be transferred to Mayuni SSS.
Strangely, the date to report at Nankuntwe CS was not stated in the transfer letter presumably because the Director never really wanted me to report at Nankuntwe CS, nor to remain at Kaliyangile CS, but wanted me out of the system by resignation or dismissal, as he had earlier demanded me to resign and threatened to dismiss me if I don’t resign. This is probably why a new teacher was quickly appointed to the position I was “transferred to” at Nankuntwe CS within nine (9) working days from 16 February – the first day he claims I was supposed to report at that school.
He knew well that by preventing me from signing the attendance register at Kaliyangile CS and quickly “replacing me” at Nankuntwe CS, I would virtually have no where to report so that he would have a basis, albeit flawed, to later claim “abscondment”, and therefore fulfil his expressed intention to dismiss me. This means I was actually dismissed on the 16th of February 2016 when I was prevented from signing in the attendence register, or on 26 February 2016 when someone was appointed at Nankuntwe CS, but the dismissal had to wait for 30 days!
Despite having appealled to the Pamenant Secretary against the forced transfer in time, she only responded to a transfer complaint five days following my subsquent dismissal.
However, I was at all material times present at Kaliyangile CS as my duty station despite being prevented from signing the attendance register, teaching and even prevented from seating in on a chair in the staffroom. Moreover, all communications and summons from the Director, through the Inspector, the Principal, and even Nampol, found me at Kaliyangile CS. If he wished to bring me before a disciplinary hearing for “abscondment” or “absence without leave”, or “refusing a forced transfer”, it was possible because I was reachable.
With regard to the transfer, according to the Public Service Act (PSA) of 1995, section 23 (2)(a), any staff member, in the public service, other than permanent secretaries is transferred by the Permanent Secretary – not by the Director. However, invoked with the principle of audi alterum partem (listening to the affected party).
On the dismissal, Section 5 (1) of PSA states that the discharge of any staff member from the Public Service shall be made by the Prime Minister, not by the Director, on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission. This should be invoked with consideration of section 33(1) of the Labour Act (2007) which states that “an employer must not, whether notice is given or not, dismiss an employee (a) without a valid and fair reason”.
It must be noted here that the Director is not only learned, but have been a supervisor in the Ministry of Education for more than 15 years and cannot therefore claim ignorance over who has the authority to transfer or dismiss teachers. Besides, ignorance of the law is not a defence in law.
As a matter of fact, I am not the only one who resisted a forced transfer. There are a number of School Principals or teachers who rejected forced transfers but they were not dismissed. There are more serious cases which have been put under the carpet by the same Director. For example, his own brother, a teacher, impregnated a learner but he was not dismissed. The Director is aware of this case but took no disciplinary action against his brother.
I am a victim of political persecution, despite that Section 30 (1) of the public service Act (Act 13 of 1995) provides that a staff member may (a) be a member of a political party; (b) attend, preside at or speak at a public political meeting; (c) draw up or publish any writing to promote the interests of any political party, among others.
However, justice will be served very soon.
Edwin M Samati
Former teacher, now Law Student