The sprawling saga involving a possible N$12 million illegal immigration scheme concocted by a Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) councillor is shaking the core of Namibia’s official opposition.
Several senior figures in the party have voiced concern over how it is run and accused its leader McHenry Venaani of ruling with an iron fist.
In PDM, insiders say, it is either Venaani’s way or the highway.
Some go further to liken the modus operandi in the official opposition to George Orwell’s classic novel, ‘Animal Farm’, “where some animals are more important than others.”
Venaani stands accused of treating Vezemba Rodman Katjaimo with kid gloves over the saga. The two are blood relatives.
The career politician, who turned 45 yesterday, dismissed the allegations, branding those harbouring such views of being “power hungry and power mongers”.
Venaani is further accused of running the movement like a cuca shop.
“PDM is an animal farm. When will we create a situation as political party where the party is a separate entity that exists without an individual? We can’t lead a party like a family tavern,” said a PDM leader who preferred anonymity out of fear of victimisation.
At the heart of the fiasco is Katutura Central constituency councillor, Katjaimo, the chief architect of a failed trip to Birmingham, England, for the Commonwealth Games, which ended without any participant setting foot in the Queen’s land.
The trip in which 198 Namibians forked out N$65 000 each never came to pass due to stringent immigration rules.
In total, around N$12.9 million was collected. The funds were to pay for air tickets, accommodation and pocket money.
It has now emerged that the Commonwealth Games was a decoy. The real reason behind the dodgy trip was for Namibians to seek asylum in the United Kingdom upon entry.
Katjaimo and the participants were aware of this.
Further allegations are that Katjaimo misappropriated some funds while some money was used to bankroll the politician’s lifestyle.
Some party leaders have demanded Katjaimo’s immediate suspension, pending the outcome of an investigation the party has instituted.
He also denied claims that Katjaimo is receiving preferential treatment. In fact, Venaani takes allegations against the former sports reporter with utmost seriousness.
But Katjaimo cannot be arbitrary suspended as it flies in the face of natural justice, Venaani said.
He can also not singlehandedly suspend Katjaimo or any other member of the party.
“The only body in the PDM that must suspend him is the national executive committee. It has not met. It only met in June. It has not been called for any matter,” Venaani said before rubbishing claims linking him to the trip.
“Why would I treat somebody with kid gloves if I am the one who instituted an investigation?”
The politician pointed to an investigation spearheaded by PDM secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe.
“I am an ardent supporter of accountability. How does a party suspend a regional councillor? Read the Local Authority Act. What is the process? A minister has to be involved somewhere. It is not a decision of the [PDM] president. It can never be a decision of one person. No respectable institution can suspend an individual without hearing them,” he said before taking aim at Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) leader Panduleni Itula who has veto powers.
“I am not like Itula who hears somebody has done something, he fires. That is not within the confines of the rule of law. I am not protecting Katjaimo. But all legal processes must be followed. I have alerted the top six that this matter is very serious and needs thorough investigation. I have already exerted pressure on the SG,” Venaani charged.
On its part, IPC accused PDM of double standards.
“These colleagues [PDM] are doing the same corruption that they are accusing Swapo of. It is shameful for us as opposition parties. It means we must just throw in the towel if we are like Swapo. They are not different from Swapo,” IPC spokesperson Imms Nashinge asserted yesterday.
The outspoken Nashinge took a swipe at Katjaimo, whom he accused of using public office for illicit activities.
“It doesn’t make sense that all those people, many of them unemployed were going to watch the games. That is a decoy. A government office was used in this. How do you rate our patriotism as Namibians,” Nashinge said.
PDM lawmaker Vipuakuje Muharukua holds similar sentiments as Nashinge.
“We cannot be the first party to condemn Swapo for corruption, yet when individuals in our party or the party itself are found wanting, we are silent,” Muharukua said last week.
Katjaimo has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He maintains that N$10.5 million was paid to service providers.
Travel agencies Satguru, Trip Travel and international firm Kingdom Sports Group are recipients of the said monies, Katjaimo said.
This week Katjaimo’s legal woes mounted.
Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe has written to Katjaimo seeking clarity on how appropriated monies collected from Namibians for the botched trip.
Tjombe is representing 14 of the participants.
“Our clients instructed us to demand in writing, as we hereby do, that you immediately bug before 12h00 on Friday 9 September 2022, failing which our clients instructed us to take legal action, including the possibility of seeking the sequestration of your estate in terms of the provisions of the Insolvency Act, Act 24 of 1936, and lodge a criminal complaint of embezzlement and or fraud and or theft,” Tjombe told Katjaimo on Wednesday.
Katjaimo confirmed receiving Tjombe’s instructions.