OMUTHIYA – Tsumeb constituency councillor Lebbius Tobias’ alleged interference in the drought relief food distribution programme has drawn the ire of Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The councillor was taken to task after agents of the World Food Programme (WFP), together with their distribution partner, the Catholic Aids Action Trust, wrote to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, informing her of the suspension of the programme by alleging Tobias intimidated officials and forced the supply of food without following the correct protocol.
In the letters, it is alleged that on 26 March, Tobias intimidated caretakers and demanded keys where food, meant for antiretroviral therapy (ART) clients, is kept, to distribute. The letter further asserts Tobias proceeded to distribute the food consisting of 600 bags of maize meal and 82 bags of soya beans to about 300 people without the blessing of the Trust, which is mandated to carry out such task.
The US government, through the local embassy, donates the food. Tobias’ intervention comes after clients had approached him complaining they were unable to receive food for about two successive weeks, while the Trust noted the delay was caused by insufficient food aid packages.
As a result, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila informed the councillor that although concerns about delays in the implementation of the relief programme are justified, such interventions are deemed inappropriate. She added that, as a result of such interference, the donor has decided to suspend the programme pending government assurance that a similar incident shall not occur.
“Therefore, I request that such approach should not be resorted to in the near future when seeking to address problems with project implementation. Rather proper channels should be followed to find amicable solutions. The OPM is available to receive information about any such problem and to facilitate the resolution together with relevant stakeholders,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila wrote in a letter dated 2 April.
When contacted for comment, Tobias said all he did was in good faith and never intended to disrupt or disregard protocol of the programme administrators.
“I appreciate the programme put in place by the donors, as it is assisting our communities. My intervention was in good faith, as the beneficiaries approached me as councillor that they had not received food in two weeks. Having received to their cries and one could see they were really desperate for food, we discussed with the official responsible to assist these people. They requested to receive what was available, as they could not longer wait until all the required rations are in place,” explained Tobias.
He added that he never thought the issue would be blown out of proportion.
“The report is not written fairly; it does not reflect what transpired, thus it caught me by surprise,” he said.
“The group met me at the hospital just after I came from a Covid-19 meeting, when they approached to air their concern and frustration. What I did was to assist without any intimidation. Therefore, to the donor and implementer, kindly continue with the programme, and I can assure you that there will be nothing of that nature again in future. I respect all the guidelines and policies in place. My intervention was in good faith and never meant to disregard, disrupt and destroy your good efforts.”