WINDHOEK – Following vigorous criticism by some people who are against the sale of the 71 000-hectare Erindi Private Game Reserve to Mexican billionaire businessman Alberto Baillères, President Hage Geingob yesterday said Namibians should embrace and welcome investors instead of chasing them away.
Geingob described Baillères as a special investor, saying he is a man of standing. “He is a special investor. You must respect people. He is not an ordinary investor. There are classes also. Investors have status of investors and he is one of them; welcome investors, don’t chase them away and then cry we don’t have jobs. How do we develop a country? You need to create a conducive environment. He doesn’t want to talk now … that’s his business, but I have a duty to talk to you and that’s what I have done,” Geingob remarked.
Namibia’s biggest privately owned game reserve, Erindi, located south-east of Omaruru, has been on the market for five years for nearly N$2 billion by Erindi (Pty) Ltd, the company that owns the reserve.
Baillères, who intends to buy Erindi through Rembo Ltd, met Geingob yesterday at State House where they held a closed-door meeting before the President addressed the media.
The meeting was also attended by Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein and Attorney General Albert Kawana.
Geingob said Baillères is his guest at State House and he is buying Erindi.
Asked why he had a closed-door meeting with Baillères, Geingob responded: “None of your business. You are saying I cannot meet a person … it’s closed door? If it’s closed door, why did we come out? We are here to answer you. But if I have to meet someone in my office, you must tell me who I have to meet?”
Geingob made it clear that Namibia has no law that prevents foreigners from buying land – besides the resolutions on ancestral land made during the second national land conference last year.
He invited the Mexican billionaire to attend the investment conference scheduled to take place end of July where Baillères is expected to openly announce his intention with Erindi.
“We googled him and realise he is a true investor with means. If he can choose Namibia, we say ‘you are welcome to Namibia’. We are a law-abiding country. So good investors are welcome. We talk about jobs, jobs … government cannot create jobs. These are the people that you provide a conducive environment to create jobs,” Geingob said.
Geingob cautioned journalists to do away with selective coverage, urging them to be objective in their reporting.
He accused some media houses of distorting facts with falsehoods, adding that they are destroying Namibia and chasing away investors.
He said in other countries investors are welcomed with a red carpet.
Finance minister Schlettwein said Namibia is a peaceful and stable country with a sophisticated financial sector, a favourable tourism sector and is also known for its conservation policy, all of which attract investors.
Baillères, who stood next to Geingob, did not utter a word, with the President saying he will do the briefing himself.
Geingob promised that existing workers will not lose their jobs and the farm’s biodiversity will also be protected.
Land reform minister Nujoma said there are about 300 to 400 workers at Erindi.
Geingob stressed his point of calling on Namibians to embrace and welcome investors into the country. He said Namibia is a law-abiding country with governance systems to protect investors.
“Therefore, if there is a dispute as it happened earlier, we took the issue to court. We thought it’s a very important piece of land. We wanted to buy it as a government. First, we realised that a waiver was already granted when comrade Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana was minister of lands. We give waiver on land that is not suitable for resettlement. So that farm was declared not suitable for resettlement,” he stated.
Therefore, he said, the owners were told they can sell it – government was also offered to buy it, but could not afford it.
He said the farm is anyway owned by foreigners (South Africans) who by law are allowed to sell their properties, the Presdent emphasising it’s not owned by Namibians.
“That’s why the buyer is coming to buy. By talking to him, I was very much impressed that he wants to come as a friend to Namibia from Mexico, not to make money from that farm but to see biodiversity and conservation developed,” Geingob maintained.
Geingob also said he told the Mexican billionaire, not only to invest in Erindi but also to look at other sectors of the Namibian economy.
According a local communications company called Emergo, speaking on behalf of Baillères, the investor detailed his plans to invest in and upgrade Erindi, and safeguard its flora and fauna, while expanding ongoing conservation efforts.
Emergo said Baillères expressed his happiness at visiting Namibia again and thanked the Namibian government for extending a warm welcome, and was complimentary of the professionalism of the government departments engaged thus far in the investment process.
2019-06-27 09:02:27 25 days ago