3,5bn reasons to question president
We bristle with righteous indignation, on behalf of a financially-strapped nation, which has at its helm a leader that boldly speaks about transparency, efficiency and integrity, and yet has as a best buddy and business partner who has been arrested and charged with corrupt practices that may have cost this country over N$3,5 BILLION in desperately needed revenue.
While nothing has been proven yet in the courts, and all who are arrested are presumed innocent, we would be remiss in our mandate to inform the public, if we do not present the impact of the arrest of Huang.
Given that our police forces are not reckless about pulling people off airplanes and holding them for a court appearance with no compelling evidence in hand, we can aptly declare that where there is smoke, there may well be a raging veld fire, in this case.
Huang’s arrest is a scandal for Geingob. The amount over which Huang is accused is not small.
If the accusations are proven in court, our own president may well have some tenuous link to the entire mess.
We believe that President Geingob has compromised the integrity of State House. Huang-gate is not a product of a so-called ‘Ndonga Agenda’ to oust him; there are no tenderprenuers or jilted businessmen at fault; and it is not to be blamed on either the Nujoma or Pohamba administrations; and the media are not the cause of this scandal.
There are no ‘tribal agendas’ at play either. No. This entire episode is the product of decisions taken by President Geingob himself, regarding his choice of business partners and friends. He got himself into this compromising situation all by himself.
As schools, hospitals and the police forces have their budgets slashed, the construction industry slows down and dismisses workers, and tenders are cancelled and small businesses close down.
And while sport codes die and thousands of people in many sectors are being retrenched due to budget issues, we wonder how the president will react to a business friend, who allegedly keeps N$3,5 billion in ill-gotten gains in his personal pocket, that could have been used to support the national budget.
As a leader, it is the way you live your life that speaks to the credibility of everything you say and do. The Huang saga paints a negative view of the personal lifestyle choices made by Geingob.
The high regard in which Namibians hold State House and the dignity of the Office of the President has been sullied. Often in media briefings, the president has challenged the public to bring forth evidence of his corruption or unethical behaviour.
This challenge is difficult to confront, as it is still in our culture to respect our leaders and elders. Those who retain a high regard for State House itself, and holders of high office, tend to hold back from being too invasive, disrespectful or probing. But the accusations now looming over Geingob’s BFF opens up lines of questioning that cannot be ignored any longer.
The late HH (may he rest in peace) warned the public that “Hage has made too many mistakes”. Consorting with a businessman, who is accused of having reneged on paying taxes to the country, while he has amassed a fortune, may well be one of them.
Given Namibia’s laws that provide for the legal confiscation of assets gained with illegal funds (should this be proven), we wonder if this will provoke an investigation into all Huang’s business dealings, with an eye to sorting out what was paid off or purchased with funds that should have been submitted to the fiscus as income taxes.
Huang’s relationship with Geingob speaks to how Geingob’s previous financial woes, were settled including his payment of municipal bills and bank overdrafts, during his second tenure as prime minister.
Taking into consideration our president’s well known desire for the first-class life and the luxuries that come with it, we wonder why 60 percent of the 39 hectares owned by Geingob and his second wife, Loini Geingos, was sold to Huang for a below-market price of less than N$400,000.
At the time the deal was announced, many questioned this gross undervaluing of that tract of land, which is said to have carried a municipal land value of possibly N$50 million.
However, we note that the taxes and transfer fees paid on the lower value transaction that occurred would be significantly less than a higher priced one.
Since this is the kind of charge (deliberate undervaluation of products) that Huang now faces, we wonder if the African Sunrise Investment deal was also possibly part of the same pattern of undervaluation to evade taxation.
What will be the impact of a Huang conviction, not just on the president’s Sunrise venture, but on other things?
As we move towards the SWAPO Party congress later this year, what implications does Huang-gate, Kora and the phosphates debacles, have on the SWAPO ideology and the party’s anti-corruption agenda being strongly articulated by Geingob?
Is this entire situation the baggage that we want the party to carry into the congress?
We also remember that President Geingob handed over a fully furnished house to Stella Hansen and her family in 2015. This house was built with funds provided by Huang, on Geingob’s behalf and at his behest.
We sincerely hope that investigations about the status of the N$3,5 billion (plus interest and penalties), which was supposed to be State tax revenues, do not raise ownership questions regarding Hansen’s house.