Shivute to leave NamWater watertight

NAMIBIA Water Corporation Ltd (NamWater) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Vaino Shivute will in two years time call it quits and close a chapter mirrored by tragedy and coincidence, from his days off dodging bullets at Cassinga to another 20 years in Namibia’s public offices.

His retirement end of December 2013 coincides with the expectation of NamWater making significant investments to refurbish some of the major water supply infrastructure supplying water to major centres around the country, including the capital Windhoek.

Since his appointment in 2002 to lead a forensic audit at NamWater, which saw the then CEO, Helge Habenicht, fired and at least 10 other NamWater employees disciplined on charges of mainly gross negligence and fraud, the journey has been a meandering one for Shivute.

“I was appointed by Government specifically for two things; first to implement recommendations of the forensic audit at NamWater and secondly to oversee the disciplinary process involving a number of managers.”

Although challenges included the replacement of old and worn-out water supply infrastructure, “The major challenges included, but were not limited to non-payments by some customers for services rendered, something detrimental to NamWater’s operations as it operates on a cost recovery basis,” he says.

Continues Shivute, “We have managed to overcome a lot of these obstacles, but our biggest challenges are upgrading and refurbishing the country’s water supply system as it is now old since most of the infrastructures were created in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We have projects underway at all our three operational regions in the country as well as the six operational areas that fall under these regions to upgrade the water supply system in the country.”

Windhoek is NamWater’s main revenue earner as it has industries and factories that require water for their daily operations followed by the coastal area of the Erongo region which has mines that also demand a high supply of water, and then the four northern central regions where there is demand due to the ongoing development in that area.

NamWater, according to Shivute, has managed to position itself in line with the Vision 2030 as it is complimenting Government efforts in supplying water to each and every one of the development projects that are set to be implemented by 2030.

There is no development project that can take place without water, he stresses.

NamWater is currently in the process of finalising the Water Master Plan for supply in the country which will see the parastatal injecting at least N$3-4 billion over the next few years to minimise the water woes that often affect Namibia.

The Water Master Plan will help NamWater make substantial investments in upgrading and refurbishing water supply schemes that were created during the colonial era.

Even two seasons after his departure, Shivute does not foresee any water shortages hitting the country anytime soon and is quick to rubbish such expectations regarding Windhoek: “We do not expect to have water shortages for Windhoek anytime soon. Our dams are currently full and that will take us over two rainy seasons even if it does not rain over those two rainy seasons, a situation which is very unlikely.”

Having inherited an organisation which was financially weak, Shivute says he has managed to put in place a turnaround strategy that has resulted in the company returning to a healthy financial position.

NamWater’s tariff increase proposal has been submitted to Government and the company is awaiting a response on this. If the tariff proposal is approved, it will enable the company to recover more revenue that adds to its financial base for the various projects lined up for the future.

Although the company was granted a tariff increase last year, it must be borne in mind that for the previous three financial years, no tariff increase was granted by Government.

Shivute, an agronomist by training, joined NamWater from the then Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development where he started as Deputy Permanent Secretary in 1991, before being promoted to Permanent Secretary in 1995 and then subsequently seconded to NamWater in December 2002 to implement the recommendations of the forensic audit that was carried out at the time.

Shivute did his Diploma in Public Administration and Management at the UN Institute for Namibia in Lusaka where he specialised in Agriculture. He was sent to Botswana to gain practical experience.

After Botswana he was sent to the former Yugoslavia for six months to further his studies in the Management of Public Enterprises. In 1982 he was sent to the United Kingdom (UK) where he spent at least eight years studying for his Bachelor and Master’s degrees, as well as a Doctorate, before returning after in 1991.

One of the prominent Cassinga Massacre survivor, Shivute’s education and love for his country, came as a mixture of coincidence and tragedy.

“I left the country when I was 21 to go to the battle-front as the situation in the country was so tense and the future was very bleak for most youngsters due to discrimination. One’s future was only determined by skin colour.

“We went through Angola to Zambia where we received military training by the Swapo Party combatants. Later, we were sent to Tanzania where we received further training from Chinese instructors. Since Mozambique had just got its independence, the late Comrade Samora Machel came to address us at Kongwa, motivating and encouraging us to continue with the struggle.

“Tragedy befell me when, upon our arrival return to Namibia, we were attacked at Cassinga. I was seriously wounded and had to return to Luanda for treatment.

In 1979 I was sent back to Zambia to study because of the injuries sustained at Cassinga, forcing me to put the barrel aside and have more time with books, that’s how I started with my schooling,” says the 57 year old.

He was part of the smaller group that was asked by the ruling Swapo Party to remain in the UK and further their studies while the rest were returning home to participate in the elections.

He remained behind with the likes of Dr. Sackey Akwenda and Inge Zamwaani so that they could bring their knowledge to develop the country.

Today, Shivute pays tribute to this education and opportunity arguing that it strengthened his character and loyalty to serve Government.

“What was in my head is all I could give to my country as payback and I served dutifully. I carried my everyday job with national pride,” he says.

Having spent more than ten years in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Permanent Secretary respectively, he managed to deal with policy issues relating to agriculture at a senior position, and he regards this as one of his career achievements as the clock ticks on public service tenure.

Married to Nashilongo, the couple has two children, (Shomwatala),who has just started her studies at the University of Cape Town and (Shuutheni ) a grade 10 pupil.

Shivute has three other children from his previous relations with the oldest of his children being a 28 year old son who lives in Botswana with his mother and two other sons also staying with their mother in Zambia.

In his closing remarks Shivute encourages the youths to treasure their heritage and befriend books as they are a wealth of information and can open many gates in life if properly digested.

On whether he will return to active politics, Shivute says; “I have no political ambition. I have served my country and Government as a civil servant but I still do participate in local party structures.” PF