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Will Moses Take Windhoekers to the Promised Land?

All will become clear in the fullness of time, as they say.

On 1 August 2023, Moses Matyayi will take over as Windhoek’s chief executive officer, ending close to four years without a CEO.

He has led Otjiwarongo as CEO since 2020. Before that, he was Otavi CEO for nine years.

Admittedly, the Windhoek leadership vacuum was exploited by uncouth inside and outside elements who understood philosopher Aristotle’s “nature abhors a vacuum”.

It started in 2014 with the departure of the enigmatic Niilo Taapopi. Shortly before his retirement, we had led a mass action to submit 14 000 land applications to the city.

The tall CEO came to the application counting room, tapping us on our shoulders. This memory was refreshed when, at a recent public meeting, Joshua Mario announced his family now has a home as he stood up, with 14 000 others, to apply in 2014.

In 2017, Taapopi was succeeded by Robert Kahimise. 

 CONCERNS

Before I joined the council and became mayor in December 2020, we had a number of concerns apart from land and housing.

We were alarmed by projections that by 2041, Windhoek’s population will increase from 300 000 to 800 000 plus inhabitants.

We inquisitively considered the land, water and energy questions for inhabitants. We were alive to the burgeoning urban-rural divide.
Indeed, we were alive to the fact that for our country, Windhoek is a big deal.

We thus resolved to build an interventionist city to pursue our country’s developmental aspirations. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the numbers to implement our plans. We had to compromise and enter into voting arrangements with others as no one had an outright majority.

It was a difficult environment. I had to work with people who agreed with you at 10h00 and diametrically changed track at 10h05.

Individuals old enough to be my parents competed with me like teenagers desirous of getting into a high school team.

But I don’t regret the experience. It is one I still cherish.

As the going got tougher, Martin Luther King whispered “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

 HACIENDA NÁPOLES

By April 2021, it became clear the arrangement wouldn’t work.

For posterity, I documented the situation – in coded language – in an address titled ‘Of the theatre of silver and the criminalisation of the city; resisting the conversion of Windhoek into Hacienda Nápoles’.

In it, I said “the presence of some of us at the helm of their Hacienda Nápoles was always going to be a problem… we knew our presence would be contested and resisted at every turn… I am prepared to be an ordinary councillor”. 

There were, however, things we got right or set in motion for future germination.

One was a policy change to ensure transparency in the recruitment of top executives who are now required to do public presentations.
We conquered efforts to abort this process and, by late 2022, successfully got it back on track.

Moses finally accepted the offer to join the city. He starts next week, and will find a giant organisation with more than 2 000 employees, a N$20 billion asset base and a N$5 billion budget.

Compared to Otjiwarongo, Windhoek is what an elephant is to a goat. It is a city that requires a sophisticated and analytical mind.
It has a skilled workforce that is handsomely remunerated, which accounts for low staff turnover.

RED ALERT

Windhoek provides electricity directly to consumers.

Moses joins at a time when salivating politicians want to introduce a middleman called ‘Central Red’.

Moses is best advised that the day ‘Central Red’ is introduced will see the start of the speedy degeneration of our nation’s capital – under his watch. 

Negative publicity aside, Moses will find a good infrastructure and foundation for financial sustainability – including reformed accounting systems and standards, smart city initiatives including fibre monetisation (our city’s fibre is second only to NamPower), council-owned housing programme, a city-owned company, new approved townships, and an impending authorised planning authority.

This foundation is unfortunately buried by the city losing the information battle. The art of communication and information dissemination is one of the city’s biggest deficits.

As with others before him, internal and external cabals cannibalistically hot-spotting the city’s resources will try to capture Moses’s soul, eyes and signature.

Moses is no child. He needs no telling about the good and the bad of stairs. Stairs assist in both going up and coming down.

Either way, it’s possible to stumble and fall. Indeed, the city has assets and liabilities – beyond accounting that is.

FUTURE FORWARD

One’s approach to bees determines whether you get honey or stung. 

Studying organisational culture may be the best place to start. Organisational experts Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker are instructive on this: “The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate.”

Whether Moses will take Windhoekers to ‘the promised land’ will depend on what he does, when, where, how, why and with whom.

We will be there to help him build. We will equally be there to signal if he goes astray.

Welcome to Windhoek, Moses! Let’s get to work.