A rejoinder to the character assassination of the presidency
The purpose of this rebuttal is not to defend the person, character and honour of President Hage Geingob, as an individual, since he is more than able to do so by himself, as evidenced in the past.
Rather, this commentary seeks to analytically clarify and expose as bellicose, false and sinister, some of the most brazenly insidious statements made in last week Friday’s editorial [in the Windhoek Observer] against the Office of the Head of State to blemish its integrity and legitimacy, through manipulation of perceptions.
The haste of the Windhoek Observer to ferociously link the president through defamatory editorial allusions, to the arrest of Mr. Jack Huang, a well-known business mogul, brings into question its editorial integrity. Its open bias and hostility appeared to aim at negatively influencing people’s perceptions and serving as a signal for action before even the court pronouncement.
We have read of allegedly underground meetings in Okalongo and elsewhere, of some dissatisfied ‘Johnny-come-latelys’ to the SWAPO fold; connivingly slogging day and night, to drive a wedge between the SWAPO Party vanguard leadership, and snatch the party presidency at the Congress this year. We hope the editorial was not meant to support this discarded angry BEE gang’s efforts to regain the top spot in the queue for the tender rice bowl, at the expense of all Namibian communities.
Listed below are some of the Windhoek Observer’s innuendos to which this commentary will respond briefly:
“…Having 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…”
The “best [buddy ship],” is debate-able. As for the “business partnership”, the President has never hidden this fact, unlike some BEEs who never declared taxes on their proxy business shares or the largesse commissions from huge billion dollar infrastructure deals. Maybe it’s time for Finance and Nampol to start the next round of investigations on all such BEE deals and commissions to augment our desperately needed revenue. After all, tax evasion is tax evasion whether done by Chinese or Namibians! Only the courts are the definers of culpability of any accused, until then, all accused persons are innocent before the law and the media.
“Given that our Police forces are not reckless about pulling people off airplanes and holding them for 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 his case”
We all have high regard for our patriotic police forces. However in this instance, Sisa Namandje, Mr. Huang’s lawyer said, “I will not even call it an arrest. They grabbed my client unlawfully and we are going to challenge it immediately…”
Mr. Namandje did that and the State did not even oppose the bail. In-fact, the newspapers reported on the un-procedural issuance of the warrant of arrest by the magistrate without the required sworn statement containing a minimum degree of reasonable suspicion and evidence to warrant the arrest. But this is best left to our most competent courts to determine the presence of a raging veld fire or a setup hoax, and not to media lynching akin to judgment by inebriated shebeen frequenters or by a xenophobia-charged, wildly out-of-control nut-heads.
“Huang’s arrest is a scandal for Geingob”
Why create a scandal or crisis where there is clearly none? Should we not rather celebrate the transparency of the Geingob administration which does not sweep under the carpet such incidents, or block the police from executing their duties? The police did their job, the courts will do theirs, the lawyers will follow likewise and the verdict will inform us. In Namibia the president’s ministers, friends and family can be arrested without him interfering. So this can only be a celebrated feat for the emerging, beautiful, robust Namibian governance system of transparency. There is no scandal or crisis here.
“If the accusations are proven in court, our own president may well have some tenuous link to the entire mess”.
‘If’ is not an axiomatic fact of reality, it is a speculative position, in-short, it is wishful daydreaming. The president is not on trial here, neither is he a suspect or witness in this case, or is he on the Windhoek Observer’s trial list? The purpose of such a statement is to baselessly link the president to the case with which he clearly has no connection – zilch!
“We believe that President Geingob has compromised the integrity of State House”.
This embarrassingly nonsensical conclusion is devoid of any professional fairness. The media or some schemers cannot make such a judgement, only Parliament and the nearly 90 percent of the Namibian electorate who voted the president, can as the sovereigns of the ballot box, do this. This is not your call!
What is the sin of the president in a case where he is neither a party nor a witness? Or should all Namibians based on their friendship or kinship be held responsible by the law for the actions of their associates? Hopefully, this is not a calculated statement for an envisaged “putsch” requesting the president to step down or for a vote of no confidence in offing.
“….. 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.”
This is seriously libelous stuff. The facts are that 100 different companies are implicated in this alleged tax fraud, so where did the new allegation came from that suddenly one man “… allegedly keeps N$3, 5 billion in ill-gotten gains in his personal pocket?” other than from the editor of the Windhoek Observer, and not the police investigators.
By so doing you are inventing news and also reporting on what you have contrived, becoming the investigator, prosecutor and judge simultaneously. This is reminiscent of the apartheid era propaganda strategy at its best: twist the facts to confuse, publicly vilify and demonise, and finally physically destroy the enemy target!
The late HH warned the public that “Hage has made too many mistakes”.
Blessed are the perfect souls with no mistakes and even no tiny skeletons in their caskets, who dare to cast the first stones! How low could one stoop to invoke such an out-of-context critique from a deceased man (may his soul rest in peace), who himself made mistakes as is typical of all humans, and which some mistakes were pardoned by the same Geingob, his friend? This statement hints to a personally vengeful mindset, reflective of a seriously embittered soul, there is nothing about media freedom in this at all.
“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 Huang’s business dealings, ...”
This old trump card is usually meant to quickly escalate the charges to other sectors to find any evidence, in case the original charges don’t hold up. Is the intention here to spring the vengeful Gupta style surprise where the South African banks unilaterally closed all the company bank accounts by just screaming “state capture” even before any court verdict?
The laws including the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA) of 2004, should be applied in the spirit for which they were designed by Parliament and not as the political vengeance hammers of a few influential yet discarded BEE has-beens’ and their hidden political agents. On the other-hand, it will not be a bad idea for full-scale investigations into the BEE political connections, tenders, and asset acquisition since independence to date.
“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”.
One can only hope that the Windhoek Observer has proof to support this grave slanderous accusation, the alternative option for a flagrant lie is to go out there and apologize quickly!
“ ….. 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,”… We wonder if the African Sunrise Investment deal was also possibly part of the same pattern of undervaluation to evade taxation.”
Hold your breath, selling land for N$400,000, and transferring shares in the company owning the land for N$400, 000, are not the same thing, so chill-out, there is no tax evasion here. Your statistics here also seem completely mixed-up.
“What will be the impact of a Huang conviction, not just on the President’s Sunrise venture, but on other things?”
Such speculative questioning is only good wormwood fuel for gossip: It feeds a negativity breeding mindset and environment such as which informed the disastrous decisions of Hutu wholescale Tutsi extermination and the Germans actions against the Jews.
Afterwards both the Hutus and the Germans were in a worse subservient relationship to their victims than before. Speculation and gossip is never a basis for sound Government or policy decision-making. Rather let us all wait for the actual court verdict and cross the river once there.
Ownership Questions on the Stella Hansen House
Then Prime Minister’s office staff solicited donations from various companies after the plight of the Stella Hansen family through Katutura East’s Councilor, Ambrosius Kandjie was brought to the then Prime Minister’s attention. On this basis, Mr. Huang’s NCLHO and the City of Windhoek responded positively with the land and the building. The house is now owned by Ms. Stella Hansen, so again there is no need for speculation at this stage; let the court process take its full course.
We have only one legitimate center of executive State power in Namibia, the presidency, around whose vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Namibia all of us should rally without apology or fear. Anarchists and those with split personalities and loyalties trying to sow discord between the Trinitarian vanguard leadership: the founding, former and the current presidents, and the Namibian people; by whispering in dark corners about the ouster of a sitting president should be identified and swiftly brought to book.
Government office holders and institutions are beholden to the presidency, for the president to execute the electoral mandate. Hence, their loyalty to the president should be beyond reproach, not even a whimper or wince of treachery should be heard, seen or sensed among them!
This article is written in my capacity as a private Namibian citizen and hence contains only my personal views. - Moses Pakote
Editor’s Note: Hopefully this will be our last word on Huang-gate for a while. In our open democracy, a healthy debate on any topic is encouraged and all of our readers should feel free to express their points of view.
We cannot rebut each of the points made above by Mr. Pakote as many of his points are now overtaken by headline news stories exonerating most of our positions regarding the Huang/Geingob connection.
That said, we’d like to clear up a few things:
1) We were not the only newspaper calling Mr. Huang a ‘friend’ of the president. As is now clear, the president himself considers Huang his friend.
2) Hage admitted that he is now asking his lawyers to review his business relationship with Huang, with an eye toward terminating the partnership we queried in our editorial. African Sunrise Investments, a land development company partially owned by a Geingob Family Trust that benefits our sitting president alongside a Chinese businessman that stands accused in the courts of massive financial illegalities, remains a scandal.
Any move made now by the president to disassociate his business interests from Huang’s, regardless of the potential lucrative nature of that investment, is a step in the right direction to back-up his previous pledges for transparency in all financial dealings, and the commitment of his administration to fight against the perception of corruption.
3) The President of the Republic of Namibia is NOT an ordinary citizen and can never be held to the same standards. A directly elected president has an obligation of a higher level, as he swore to defend the Constitution and he holds the instruments of State power and trappings of high office.
If he can use the State apparatus and privileges of his office to be briefed before his friend was hauled into court to face criminal charges, then he should have used those same instruments long ago to identify the potential crisis caused by his friend and taken steps to distance himself earlier.
In addition, an elected president has a constitutional role that is to be respected and supported; but single-minded ‘loyalty’ or dedication to an individual in that office to the extent that no thought, statement or word against that person ought to be uttered or considered, is a frightening point of view to have in a democracy.
4) Our concerns that the august reputation of the highest office in the land could become tainted by association with someone suspected of such a huge financial crime, remain. No one can ever know where such court case, investigation and public trial can lead. How can we know that the African Sunrise Investment venture with the president will not be specifically mentioned by either the prosecution or the defense in this matter? How can we know if the president will be subpoenaed to testify in court by either side in the case? How do we know what Huang will assert in his defense that may cast aspersions on our president? Indeed, everyone will have to let the judicial system play its just role and see what happens in the end, but the observation about the possibilities is valid.
5) Regarding Mr. Pakote’s comments about clandestine meetings in Okalongo, we find it interesting that he repeats throughout his rebuttal to our editorial that he doesn’t respond to gossip and yet, with allusions to that underground meeting, he is rather dramatically indulging in gossip himself. We cannot respond to such speculation without facts, documents, and witnesses that lend evidentiary credence to the statement he has made.
6) Finally, as we have written in other editorials and as is written in the law, there can be no ‘ousting’ or recall of our democratically-elected president, Dr. Hage Geingob. Those espousing this are dwelling in a time-wasting, misinformed activity. It is Geingob’s role as an office-bearer in the SWAPO Party that will be decided at the upcoming elective Congress this year.
Currently, there has been no party Congress to elect a president after the resignation of former party President Pohamba. In fact, all SWAPO Party offices are up for consideration at the Congress according to the well-known rules. All who support the party and are committed to democratic processes must embrace this important electoral process.
Those members interested in holding office, including President Geingob, will declare their candidacy for various positions and the Congress will vote accordingly; this is as it should be. We have gone on record supporting a gender-balanced, younger, energetic, technically-skilled, performance-proven leadership of the party going forward towards future national elections. Our editorial this week speaks to these points.