WINDHOEK – Starting as a cleaner at Kalahari Sands Hotel on 12 October 1989, with a Grade 10 certificate to show for his education, David Namalenga is today the managing director of the biggest emerging textile garment manufacturing company in Namibia. To top it all, he now proudly speaks of his academic achievements – a master’s degree.
It has not been an easy journey and he recounts his early days as trade unionist – where he started as shop steward rising to be union president – when he would feel intimidated during wage negotiations with highly qualified executives.
“At one time I looked down at myself and experienced this great desire to be on the same level with these human resources specialists in terms of education and that was the starting point of my journey of educational and career advancement for the next 14 years till 2009,” Namalenga says, his eyes twinkling with pride.
He says he entered the politics of trade unions when he was selected as shop steward for Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) at Kalahari Sands Hotel in 1990. He rose through the ranks to serve as branch secretary the next year, then national treasurer and president of Nafau in 1996. Most of his union work involved wage negotiations and other employee-related negotiations with the management at Kalahari Sands, which awoke in him the desire to return to the desk and complete high school. Hence, in 1994, he enrolled as a Grade 12 part-time learner at A Shipena Senior Secondary School in Windhoek, completing his education in 1995. From there he enrolled with Polytechnic of Namibia for a National Diploma in Public Management. His employers at the time also saw the potential in him and sent him to Stellenbosch Business School for Management Development Programme training and eventually promoting him to service manager.
“I then registered with the International Labour Organisation for a Post-Graduate Diploma majoring in Law, Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation. This has been the best international exposure I could ever dream of, receiving lectures from international lecturers and lawyers,” he added.
His career bloomed and he changed employment, going to work for Roads Contractor Company at various managerial positions, while studying with the University of South Africa part-time until he completed the Masters Degree in Business Management in 2009.
This was also the time that Dinapama was being set up to fill the void left by the abrupt closure of the Ramatex garment factory that had left many young people unemployed. He was acting General Manger for Human Resources at Roads Contractor Company, when he eventually decided to take a plunge and join Dinapama.
Initially, the idea was to help set a foundation for the company, although halfway through he stayed as full-time managing director and a majority shareholder.
“We were only 15 employees at the beginning, operating with a few machines from a small office in Wanaheda, but later on got a bigger office from the City of Windhoek and increased the workforce to between 40 and 50 employees,” he recounts. He remembers their first big assignment – to manufacture and supply 10 000 bags for the 2011 Population and Housing Census, which they completed within six days.
“Dinapama Manufacturing and Supplies then rapidly expanded and grew, moving into a much bigger complex with an increased number of employees towards the start of 2013,” says Namalenga.
The company currently employs 329 people, 97 percent of them young women, he says.
“Dinapama Manufacturing and Supplies will expand more in future, even to the central business district. We furthermore plan to employ approximately 10 000 people in future and also hope to get more jobs, especially from international clients. Also in the pipeline is the establishment of a Dinapama Academy where more employees and Namibians can be trained. I urge all Namibians to become more passionate about growing the country, work together and support each other and create wealth for all. Although this vision is still in its pilot stage, we at Dinapama are confident that it can be realised.
“My journey was not an easy one, but where there is a will there is a way,” says Namalenga.
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