Stanley Similo and the quest for professionalism

By By Francis Mukuzunga
June 2010
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WHEN the name of Stanley Benjamin Similo was mentioned as one of the three candidates vying for the position of Director General of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), tongues went wagging around the rumour mill.

The Chief Human Resources, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer at mobile communications company leo™ says he is worried about the NBC’s integrity when recruitment matters are pre-maturely discussed in public.

“I advise my own management about issues of recruitment and selection. Part of what we must do and protect is the dignity of any form of recruitment and that the processes remain clean and above board.”

Similo holds a BA in Communications and a MBA from Regis University (USA) majoring in Management.

He also has benefitted from short courses in Financial Management, Management and Leadership, Television Production Management and others through UNAM, University of Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town and Radio Netherlands Training Centre (RNTC) a Radio and Television Training Centre in the Netherlands. Currently he oversees the strategic direction of leo™, focusing on aspects of human capital management, the administration, the regulatory element of the business and also in a way, the face of the company.

“In addition, I am also the liaison person between leo™ and government, parastatals and the captains of industry. From an HR perspective, it is my duty to ensure that employer/employee relations and that of the Union are harmonized. Equally, it is my job to ensure that our employees are at home with leo™.”
On the regulatory front, Similo, his CEO Soban Pashaand the company’s Chief Legal Officer Tiaan Bazuin, work hand in hand with the Namibian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on matters regarding the mobile communications industry including regulatory issues.

The NBC Question

With NBC recruiting a new DG, Similo says it is everyone’s hope that the NBC improves its “machinery” and that a substantive DG is appointed to facilitate that process.

“The NBC has a couple of issues that, in my view, needs attention even before money is pumped into the entity. I refer to simple discipline which is applicable to employee and employer behaviour, secondly there is another element linked to business which refers to financial and resources management.

The entity needs to work towards establishing trust with its shareholder - the key stakeholders, the business community and the public out there,” says Similo.

He believes the corporation has a very important role to play in the daily lives of Namibian people and beyond. Therefore, he proposes that an environment audit be conducted throughout all operations within the NBC and “whoever is running NBC will be better placed to see shortcomings and strengths to transform and pitch the broadcaster amongst the best in the region, if not in Africa. Business will be attracted to invest and Namibians will prefer NBC channels above other paid channels.”

The humble and soft-spoken Similo believes all professions, including the media should not operate in a vacuum. They should take cognisance of the fact that they can influence public opinion, hence they should exercise responsibility and respect for others in their daily chores.

It is a fact that the one who owns and controls both the print and electronic media, can influence thinking in a given society. Hence the battle for the minds of people through these media will remain forever, he says.

To him, government has been supportive towards the media in Namibia for years and the Namibian media is relatively free and independent in that most of these mediums are reporting based on their value systems. “For the time that I was attached to NBC as Head of Local Programmes, I was never called by any political principal for a favour to air or edit programme content,” he says.

Namibian media (both print and electronic), he says, are on the right track, however it should jealously protect Namibia’s national pride, preventing a situation that will compromise the country’s territorial integrity as it happens in many countries around the globe. He remembers vividly the experiences with his previous employers, saying he was fortunate for the exposure gained throughout his employment history.

“I had a very intimate spell with the NBC. I was exposed to News and Current Affairs, Human Resources Department, TV Programmes up to senior management level. I was fortunate to be part of the team that coordinated the transition from South West African Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC) to NBC which took place during a delicate political period.

At the time, I was the first black cameraman who had the privilege to work with the Founding President of the Republic of Namibia Dr. Sam Nujoma and the First Prime Minister, Dr. Hage Geingob at the time of Independence. I have learnt about the in-and-outs of the NBC through trial and error. Nahum Gorelick, the late Dan Tjongarero and Dr. Ben Mulongeni were the Director-Generals respectively.”

Moving on with his professional career, he had a brief stint with the Road Fund Administration as Corporate Affairs Senior Manager. He was head-hunted by Anglo American outfit Skorpion Zinc in Rosh Pinah as its General Manager: Human Resources. He recalls this period as “trying times” as the operation was in its start up phase and had challenges with processes, systems and procedures.

Following Skorpion Zinc, he was hired by the late Lazarus Ipangelwa former Group and Bank CEO of FNB to help him with the transformation process of FNB as Group Head of Human Resources. The challenges at this financial institution were immense from a change management perspective.

FNB, at the time, just acquired SWABOU ten months before, SWABOU had acquired a Malaysian linked bank . However, he says it was fairly easy to deal with those aspects because of his knowledge of human relations. Following the untimely death of the late Ipangelwa, he parted ways with the FNB Group to join Cell One, now leo™.
“When talks of a second mobile operator were doing rounds, I positioned myself so I could form part of that project. I was then appointed as Executive responsible for Human Capital. And when TelecelGlobe acquired Cell One, I was given the assignment of Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer and since February of 2010 the HR Component was added to my plate of responsibilities. I am now with leo™ for over three years now.”

When leo™ was established in 2007, MTC was already a monopoly in the local market. In the following year, Telecom Namibia introduced its Switch mobile phone system and competition became forceful and aggressive. During its existence in Namibia, the company went through a change of ownership, including the change of name from Cell One to leo™.

Asked whether these changes had any effect on the company’s potential, Similo says: “Our rebranding from Cell One to leo™ has in no way harmed our relationship with our customers. Our entry into the Namibian market contrary to some reports has been above board. We literally followed the spirit of what was needed as far as the country’s laws are concerned. There was no violation of any of the statutory regulatory provisions or statutes so to speak. ”
Recently, leo™and MTC were in a tug of war when it comes to promotions and sponsorships, especially in sports. But Similo asserts that the entry of leo™ into the local market was good for the end-user and the country at large because it brought healthy competition into the Namibian mobile phone industry.

He adds that after the company’s launch, the Namibian public and customers started to receive an avalanche of good and great products at a lower cost. He is adamant that leo™ is here to stay and will provide the customers with their own slice of the cake.

“Fair competition is always good for a country and customers and as operators our expectations are that the Regulator and Competition Commissions should step in and realign matters in the event any of us operate unethical,” he advised.

Married to sports expert and teacher, Alna, whom he adoringly refers to as “a loving and highly supportive wife,” Stanley is a football fanatic who enjoys watching the Brave Warriors, Manchester United, South Africa’s Kaiser Chiefs as well as Brazil.

“We have a house full of kids and there are also three grandchildren who also spice up our lives. I like reading, watching television and am very fond of music. In fact, I grew up in a very musical home and I can find my way around a guitar. One of my daughters has a great voice and is a talented vocalist, but for now education is core in her life.”

He refers to the late Jackson Kaujeua as a “father figure” and one of Namibia’s very great musicians of all time. Similo is also a highly gifted writer.

His draft of a book which borders on softer side of life (romance) is currently being finalized and might hit the local book shelves soon. He even dreams bigger and would want to own his own aeroplane one day.

On a parting note, Similo says: “It’s always better to hang out with people who are better than you. Choose your contacts, friends or colleagues that have a behaviour which is much better than yours and you’ll in short time move in the same direction as they do!” PF