Details regarding the funding of the N$730 million new SWAPO Party headquarters are starting to emerge with sources alleging last week that the ruling party previously promised China a farm and four Uranium Exclusive Prospecting Licences (EPLS) in exchange for funding to construct its new multi-million dollar headquarters along Independence Avenue in Katutura.
A source familiar with the Chinese negotiations alleged in an interview with the Windhoek Observer that construction of the ultra-modern new party headquarters, which began this June after years on the table, is a culmination of an agreement reached between the Chinese government and SWAPO, then led by Sam Nujoma.
The source did not say how much funding the party had been promised in exchange for the farm and four Uranium EPLs.
Contacted for comment, Senior Special Assistant to the Founding President John Nauta told the Windhoek Observer that its questions were misdirected.
“I think you are asking the wrong person since the Founding President doesn’t deal with matters of the party. If there is/was such an agreement, the office to ask is the Office of the Secretary General since all matters pertaining to the party are kept at the party headquarters. You may also wish to ask the SG who was serving that time,” Nauta said.
SWAPO Secretary General Sophia Shaaningwa ignored questions sent to her by the Windhoek Observer since last week while the party’s Executive Director Austin Samupwa said he is not authorised to comment about the new party headquarters.
The ruling party’s Secretary for Information Hilma Nikanor promised to respond to questions sent to her on Tuesday, but had not done so by the time of going to print. She told the Windhoek Observer on Thursday that she was in meetings in the south.
Former SWAPO Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula Ithana said she will only be in a position to respond to the Windhoek Observer’s questions this Friday as she was travelling.
SWAPO Party Youth League Secretary at the time of the negotiations, Dr Elijah Ngurare confirmed there were discussions between China and SWAPO regarding funding for a new party headquarters.
“In the past negotiations these demands were there,” Ngurare said referring to the farm and Uranium EPLs.
“We advised our leadership specifically Founding President to decline those terms in the national interest and interest of future generations of party members and Namibians. Thankfully, the Founding President agreed and decided that we must mobilise our own funds locally to construct the party headquarters. This process was started and Dr Kalumbi Shangula led the fundraising efforts as then Chairman of Kalahari Holdings.”
Ngurare added that during this time, SWAPO began to construct regional offices, all funded from resources mobilised internally.
“We also began the process of constructing party regional offices and the second phase was to construct district offices. In other words, we had demonstrated capacity for self-reliance and all such constructions were done by Namibians as part of the directive we had then received from Founding President for local self-reliance. I know the future plans were equally going to include construction of branch offices, funds permitting,” he further said.
The UNAM Lecturer said the Founding President had emphasized a win-win relationship between China and Namibia and in particular “for Chinese friends” to consider opening their market for Namibian meat.
“This would also include construction of an abattoir around Otavi to benefit farmers from Zambezi up to Kunene,” he said.
Ngurare declined to comment on reports that the timing of the new party headquarters was ill-advised given the unprecedented economic crisis facing the country and drought that has ravaged many parts of Namibia.
“I think the current party leadership is well placed to comment on what critics are saying about the timing etc,” he said.
Construction of the costly offices also comes when less than 30 SWAPO districts out of 121 have no office buildings.
Samupwa told the Windhoek Observer in an interview in February that some sub-regional offices are in a state of disrepair or in a state where they need to be renovated, for example, the Oshana and Omusati offices.
“We have also discovered that we have very few district offices. Most of our districts are operating from their own houses or under trees, but a district is a very important component of our administration… so we have decided that we shall build a few according to the money we have. We have decided that this year we shall build a few district offices until we reach our goal,” Samupwa said then.
SWAPO has been secretive about the financial details of its plans to transform its headquarters into a modern office complex.
The tender to construct the multi-story building was awarded to a Chinese firm Unik Construction Engineering for a reported fee of N$730 million, up from N$400 million announced by the party last year.
Unik Construction is said to have also won the N$1 billion tender to construct the road between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
English daily, The Namibian, reported recently that the Chinese government will provide the money to kick-start the project because the ruling party does not have it.
Although the Chinese Ambassador denied the allegations, the party has on several occasions refused to give details about where it would get the N$730 million and how long it will pay back the money.
China currently controls the uranium sub-sector in Namibia. China National Uranium Corp (CNUC) received permission on Thursday to buy Rio Tinto’s 69 percent stake in Rossing uranium mine for up to US$106.5 million.
China also owns a 90 percent stake in Husab Mine, the world’s second biggest uranium mine in the world at full capacity, as well as stakes in other uranium mines.