A local commentator has called for the reopening of an investigation into the controversial Chinese state-owned arms dealer, Poly Technologies, in the wake of the resignation of defence minister Peter Vilho from Cabinet this week.
Vilho on Tuesday tendered his resignation to President Hage Geingob following claims he did not declare an offshore bank account in Hong Kong. Poly Technologies has been surrounded by corruption allegations linked to Namibia in the past.
In a letter addressed to President Hage Geingob on Tuesday, Vilho blamed the ongoing “media blitz” against him for his resignation, saying his continued membership of the executive was untenable and not in the best interest of government.
Vilho, who denied wrongdoing in the letter, also asked Geingob to institute a forensic investigation into the ministry of defence and its business wing August 26 and the Namibian Defence Force, with a view of clearing his name. Vilho was not available for comment yesterday, as his phone went unanswered.
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Graham Hopwood yesterday told New Era that on the grounds of new evidence, the prosecutor general, the Namibian police and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) should re-open the Poly Technologies defence deal case. In 2013, Poly Technologies was placed under US sanctions for allegedly selling banned weapons to Iran, North Korea and Syria, which are all considered hostile to US interests.
The NDF was in 2017 forced to cancel a N$156 million transaction with Chinese defence equipment manufacturer Poly Technologies under pressure from the US Treasury Department, which blocked the payment, citing sanctions against the Chinese company.
Most of the vessels and operational equipment used by the Namibian navy were acquired from China through Poly Technologies. Equipment acquired from China includes a dozen F-7NM/TF-7NM fighter jets, a dozen K-eight jet trainers, several Z-9 utility helicopters and the NS Elephant offshore patrol vessel.
The Namibian reported in 2017 that the Chinese company has also been accused of making pay-offs to military officials in Namibia. The newspaper further quoted prosecutor general Martha Imalwa as having said in court papers in 2011 that Poly Technologies had a contract to supply military equipment worth US$126.4 million (about N$985 million) to the NDF.
Code of conduct
Hopwood also called for a ministerial code of conduct, which would build on Article 42 of the constitution and make sure Cabinet members follow the highest standards of integrity to help tackle possible instances of conflict of interest.
The constitution discourages Cabinet members to take up any other paid employment, engage in activities inconsistent with their positions as ministers, or expose themselves to any situation that carries with it the risk of a conflict of interest.
Such a code, he said, should include a public declaration of interests and assets, verified by an independent body.
“If a minister is found to have misled the public about assets and interests, then that should be a dismissible offence,” Hopwood said. Local commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah believes Vilho resigned under a cloud of corruption suspicion; therefore, his resignation should not be the end of the matter.
“We still don’t know why he omitted the foreigner-based account from his assets declaration, and the ministry he left behind is shrouded in dubious conducts. Therefore, the matter should not rest with his resignation. The nation needs a closure through truth, and this can only be achieved through an independent inquiry,” Kamwanyah said.
Affirmative Repositioning (AR) spokesperson Simon Amunime yesterday expressed concern that Geingob has not removed Vilho from the National Assembly despite failing to uphold the principle of declaring his offshore account to parliament.
“The President, as required by the law, has not removed the corrupt Vilho from National Assembly (Parliament), which is a clear confirmation that Swapo is not ready to deal with corruption. Besides, it is also reported that there is a criminal investigation into Vilho’s involvement in corruption – even though such investigations have not beared any fruit,” he said.
Vilho was appointed by Geingob as a non-voting member of the National Assembly last year. Parliament yesterday confirmed it has not received a letter of resignation from Vilho. Landless People’s Movement (LPM) assistant spokesperson Joyce Muzengua said Vilho’s resignation was just a tip of an iceberg. - firstname.lastname@example.org