The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) cannot claim moral high ground when the ruling Swapo is embroiled in scandals and turn a blind eye when it or its members are caught pants down, its parliamentarian Vipuakuje Muharukua has said.
Muharukua, sources confirmed, gave the party until 6 September 2022 to pronounce itself on a saga involving one of its leaders and Katutura Central councillor Vezemba Katjaimo, who had organised a European trip that never took off.
It is said Muharukua and treasurer Nico Smit are demanding answers from party leader McHenry Venaani and secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe on why they have been reluctant to take action against Katjaimo for allegedly dragging the PDM brand in the mud through dodgy practices.
Katjaimo organised a scheme that saw 198 Namibians pump in N$65 000 each to attend the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
The sum totalled around N$12.9 million, and purportedly catered for accommodation, air tickets and pocket money for the supposed sports fanatics.
The sporting event ended earlier last month without any of the Namibians setting foot in the Alexander Stadium where athletes from former Commonwealth nations showcased their talents.
The trip never took off due to tight immigration laws.
Since then, Katjaimo stands accused of having used public office for speculation, self-gratification and even money laundering.
He denies any wrongdoing and claims a political witch-hunt over the failed trip.
However, Muharukua, who is also PDM’s chief whip in the National Assembly, does not buy this.
“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 upon enquiry yesterday.
PDM, Katjaimo’s political home, has been evasive despite promising to carry out a full-blown investigation of its own.
“It has been two months now since this thing came out. But we have not had a single press statement on the matter. Nothing. But if it was Swapo, you would see a press conference tomorrow,” Muharukua said without specifying his move if PDM fails to heed his call.
For three weeks now, Ngaringombe has refused to respond to detailed questions sent to him despite promising to do so.
Ngaringombe was tasked by Venaani to investigate Katjaimo.
This investigation never took place.
In the PDM corridors, it is alleged, Katjaimo is treated with kid gloves by Venaani as he is his blue-eyed boy. The two are blood relatives.
Some even go further, alleging that Venaani may have benefited from the arrangement.
“You want to throw us under the bus? The party does not give any position because it is not involved. We can’t have a position. We can only investigate what our councillor did. You can’t make it a PDM matter,” Venaani said in an earlier interview while distancing the party from the scandal.
According to the anti-graft body, Katjaimo could face possible fraud or outright theft charges if victims in the failed Birmingham trip open a case with the police.
Responding to questions, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director Paulus Noa said the organisation of the trip and subsequent collapse has remnants of theft.
“It appears these allegations amount to fraud or theft,” Noa said.
Asked if the politician abused public office, Noa replied: “Whether there was abuse of office for self-gratification, that may be revealed in the course of investigation of the allegations. The victims may lodge criminal charges with the Namibian Police”.
Noa continued: “Depending on what the evidence may reveal, corruption charges may follow. It is premature to conclude that there was an abuse of public office for self-gratification”.
“Let them first lay fraud and theft charges if they so wish. The rest may follow. No person is above the law in the Republic of Namibia,” the ACC boss further asserted.
On Monday, 44-year-old Karitondo Metirapi, who represented the participants in their quest to recover their monies from Katjaimo, died.
“He [Katjaimo] has our money. He must just pay us in full. If there are penalties for the cancellation of flight tickets, it is fine, we will take the punch. He must also give us evidence that he really spent our money on the things he claims,” Metirapi said in his last known interview.
He died from suspected stress-induced cardiomyopathy.
Talk is rife that Metirapi could not fathom the thought of losing his hard-earned N$65 000 just like that.
So dire was his situation that he had to sell his house [business] and other belongings in Otjinene in order to allegedly finance the trip. He had nothing to turn back to.
Metirapi was wheelchair-bound following a car accident in June 2016. He spent four months in ICU and two more in the hospital.
In an interview with the public broadcaster, NBC, Metirapi said he came to terms with his situation – from being an active member of society to relying on others for help – after initially struggling to come to terms with it.
“I have come to accept the situation. Surely, when you have people around you, you overcome a lot of challenges,” Metirapi said in February.
He was an ardent African Stars and Brave Warriors supporter. He was among the few Namibians who witnessed first-hand Ricardo Mannetti’s Brave Warriors’ triumph in the Cosafa Cup back in 2015.
The affairs of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and heritage, in general, were also close to his heart.
His family could not confirm if his death could be linked to the failed trip.
“If that is the case, only he would know. But as a family, he never mentioned that. What we know is he had high blood pressure which led to his hospitalisation. He was recovering well. Later, the doctors found that his kidneys were failing. He was treated for that and later, he passed on,” Metirapi’s brother Tjingari Katire narrated.
While maintaining the trip was beyond reproach, Katjaimo this week claimed his political opponents were out to get him.
He also said not all of the 198 people paid the N$65 000; some paid less.
“Maybe there were only 160 [who paid the full amount] or so. The rest paid less than that. We are busy working around the clock [to recoup the money]. Trip Travel and Satguru will refund the money this week. I don’t know how much they will refund,” Katjaimo said on Tuesday.
As for accommodation, the funds were paid to Kingdom Sports Group, a firm specialising in sports ticketing, hospitality, tours and promotional merchandise.
According to him, the participants have no qualms about the latest development.
“I give them this information every single day,” the former sports journalist said before turning on New Era.
“I know you have so much interest in this because you are being used politically. Anyway, report whatever you want because you always twist your story. You don’t write facts. You write fiction,” he charged.
Katjaimo has enlisted the services of lawyer Mekumbu Tjiteere of Weder, Kauta & Hoveka Inc to ensure the funds are returned.
“We paid N$5.3 million to them. That money is non-refundable. If we want to be refunded, we will see who will face a possible lawsuit; either the British High Commission or the embassy,” he said.
The trip fell apart after a group comprising 21 people who boarded on 26 July were turned back in Dubai – en route to Birmingham – after allegedly failing to provide sufficient evidence that they would return to Namibia after the games.
They were told they did not have the requisite documentation and background to attend an event of the Commonwealth Games’ stature.
The officials were convinced that the games were simply a decoy by desperate asylum seekers.
Ironically, Katjaimo started living large, simultaneously as the plan was falling apart.
It is alleged that Katjaimo recently bought a Toyota Fortuner and a bull for N$70 000 at a recent auction, purportedly bankrolled with funds that can be traced back to the Birmingham scheme.
Katjaimo has vehemently denied this.