Namibia Football Association (NFA) Secretary General, Barry Rukoro, has accused businesswoman and co-publisher of The Patriot, Hilda Basson-Namundjebo, of using her newspaper to settle old scores after she lost out on a tender to provide catering services in 2016 when Namibia hosted the regional COSAFA Cup tournament.
In a recent front page article, The Patriot sensationally claimed that a coterie with ties to the hierarchy at the NFA was milking the association’s coffers dry with impunity.
The newspaper alleged that it was is in possession of damning documents which exposes how Namibia Premier League club, Tura Magic, is run and sustain its operations and how a small group of well-connected individuals with links to the NFA Head Office reward themselves generously.
It accused executive members of Tura Magic of cashing in cheques amounting to several millions signed by Rukoro and NFA’s executive member Roger Kambatuku.
The newspaper said that on 31 August 2015, Tura Magic Director, Jakes Amaning, received a total of 30 cheques amounting to N$2,4 million between March 2015 and July 2017.
Amaning also works at the NFA as the Project Officer for Youth Development and doubles as the Assistant Manager of the Brave Warriors. Once a year, he organises football exposure trips to his native Ghana and Germany.
It said Sports Commissioner and former General Manager at Tura Magic, Monica Shapwa, on 10 June 2016, cashed five different cheques also at Bank Windhoek totaling N$ 120,179.65.
Tura Magic executive member and NFA Technical Director, Timo Tjongarero, on 17 July 2015 withdrew N$ 171,550 while Amaning’s alleged girlfriend, Taimie Velho, received a cheque to the value of N$95,000 on 23 June 2017 for ‘laundering and catering’ services.
Tura Magic director Isack Hamata’s wife, Poppy, is said to have been paid N$84,150 for catering services rendered by her company Cascadia Event Management.
Most of these cheques were signed by Rukoro and Kambatuku. Only in a few cases did former NFA President, Frans Mbidi, sign cheques and these were limited to staff or supplier payments” the newspaper alleged.
But in an exclusive interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, Rukoro claimed that the article carried by the newspaper co-owned by Basson-Namundjebo was an attempted hit back after her company lost out on a tender to provide catering services to the NFA when Namibia hosted the 2016 edition of the COSAFA Cup in Windhoek.
“The article is ill-intended. It makes it sound like cheques were only signed by Barry Rukoro and Kambatuku and that Frans Mbidi only signed small amounts related to staff and services rendered. Mbidi also signed big amounts which were also cashed in by those people. It also portrays a version that Mbidi is a better football administrator than all of us, which is not true,” Rukoro told the Windhoek Observer.
He said that a company belonging to Basson-Namundjebo won a tender worth over N$1 million to provide meals to VIPs when Namibia hosted the 2014 African Women's Championship in Windhoek.
The NFA supremo further said that a decision was taken in 2016 during the hosting of the COSAFA Cup tournament not to bring on board Hilda’s catering company after they agreed that her services were too expensive.
“That is why we decided to take Monica’s catering company as we thought Hilda’s catering was not worth it. She (Monica) had to receive multiple cheques as is normal since the competition had to start from the group stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals, third place play-off and the final.
“It amounted to a number of cheques since she needed to buy different things from different shops, but now she is being accused of corruption which is not the case as she has done nothing wrong.”
Rukuro said the association saved a lot of money by hiring Monica’s company instead of Hilda’s which was asking around N$1, 2 million.
“On Monica, we spent like N$120,000. Hilda is just bitter and angry because she did not get the tender. I do not even know Hamata’s wife, but she was already in our database as she was sub-contracted by Hilda Basson in 2014,” Rukuro claimed.
Asked to comment on the 30 cheques cashed in by Amaning totaling N$2,4 million, Rukoro again said there was nothing amiss.
“It is very much normal procedure. When we go to Ghana, we go with US dollars to pay for accommodation and meals. We are talking about a delegation of 30 to 35 people including players and the technical team,” Rukoro said.
He also defended payments to Tjongarero, saying as the Technical Director, there were a number of projects, 16 in total, that he was involved in in the Ohangwena Region.
“Timo was busy running a project in Ohangwena where he erected 16 football pitches. Over that period we paid various service providers and paid Timo allowances when he was travelling up and down the country. We paid hotels and for meals and we also run workshops in that region (Ohangwena). For me it is a normal figure (amount) from 2015 to 2017 for the kind of project Timo was running,” Rukoro said.
Contacted for comment, Basson-Namundjebo laughed off Rukoro’s allegations. She told the Windhoek Observer that she never submitted a tender bid for catering services in 2016.
“That is ridiculous. Please get new jokes. I did not bid that year (2016). I do not do event catering. I am not even contracted to the NFA, but to COSAFA. I worked with Sue Destombes (Chief Operations Officer of COSAFA) through the Confederation of African Football (CAF). They (COSAFA) asked me to provide service in 2016, but I declined because the money was way too little.”
She said the only time that she did business with the NFA was during the hosting of the Bidvest Cup and the Debmarine Cup matches.