WINDHOEK – The presidency yesterday defended President Hage Geingob’s meeting with Mexican billionaire Alberto Bailleres last week at State House, where the highly-emotive sale of Erindi private game reserve to the latter was discussed.
Critics, among them some of the country’s biggest workers unions, criticised the meeting, saying it would place undue pressure on the Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC), whose decision on Erindi sale the nation is waiting with bated breath.
The country’s largest trade union federation National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and its affiliate Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) added their voices of discontent to the sale of Erindi, and charged that Geingob’s meeting with Bailleres last week would intimidate NaCC into approving the widely-publicised sale.
Other critics questioned the motives of the meeting, especially in light of President Geingob’s general stance that State House was no ground for discussing business deals. They charged last Wednesday’s meeting with Bailleres was contradicting that stance.
However, presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari, in a statement issued late yesterday, said the sale of Erindi remains in the hands of relevant institutions of state, and was not a prerogative of Geingob.
“The position of the Head of State and the circumstances surrounding the sale of Erindi Private Game Reserve in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Namibia should be restated for the broader public not to be misled,” said Hengari.
Hengari charged that the meeting with Bailleres was part of the President’s tasks to assure investors that Namibia is safe and the rule of law is respected.
“As a matter of fact, and consistent with the directive, Mr. Bailleres, who is a status investor, has engaged the relevant line ministries and government agencies. The sale, in line with regulatory processes, systems and institutions is currently awaiting approval by the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC). That process should be allowed to run its course,” reads his statement.
“President Geingob does not negotiate with business leaders. In line with accepted international practice, they pay courtesy calls like other stakeholders the President sees on a daily basis. It is part of the President’s participatory approach to governance that stakeholders must consulted, heard and challenges must be identified, solutions found, with line ministries and agencies of government as the basic anchors in the governance architecture.”
Hengari said the principle of not negotiating business at State House stands “and remains an unshakeable position for as long President Geingob remains in office.”
Social movements and some political parties have questioned the wisdom of selling Erindi at a time when, as part of resolutions taken at last year’s national land conference, Namibia is trying to curb ownership of land by foreigners.
To this, Hengari said: “… Notwithstanding the recommendations by the land conference convened by President Geingob in October 2018, specifically the recommedation calling for foreigners not to buy land in Namibia, it deserves mention that the recommendation remains just that, a recommendation until the relevant institutions of the State enact laws to that effect.”
Namibia currently has no law prohibiting foreign nationals from buying land. The current owners of Erindi, the Joubert brothers, are themselves South African.
“The President achored his leadership on the continuation of a legacy to highlight and to own all the actions undertaken under the Founding President, Dr. Sam Nujoma and Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba. It is not a failure of leadership, but ownership of collective decisions by the same governing party, Swapo when the President says that a waiver is in place for Erindi Private Game Reserve, and it was granted when Honourable Pendukeni Ithana was still serving as Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation from 1996-2001.”
“After all, the President is salutory with regard to the leadership provided by Honorable Pendukeni Ithana on identity documents and passport when she was Minister of Home Affairs.”
Government in the past attempted to purchase Erindi for N$230 million for purposes of resettlement, but it was considered by the Ministry of Land Reform as not suitable for this purpose.
“Unfortunately, this was deemed unacceptable by the owners who wanted N$1.9 billion. Government went to court and took note of the fact that a waiver had already been issued and agreed to settle the matter outside court. Moreover, it should be noted that Cabinet discussed transparently and a decision to allow the sale was above board.”
Yesterday President Geingob was scheduled to meet with Napwu, National Teachers Union (Nantu) and the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natau) to discuss among others the sale of Erindi but the meeting was postponed as lands minister Utoni, whom Geingob wanted in the meeting, is out of the country.
2019-07-03 09:17:45 2 months ago