Former SWAPO Secretary General, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, has maintained that information carried in an article published by the Windhoek Observer last week regarding funding of the party’s new headquarters is correct despite objections by some party members.
The Windhoek Observer reported that details regarding the funding of the N$730 million new SWAPO Party headquarters are starting to emerge with sources alleging 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 claimed that construction of the ultra-modern new party headquarters, which began last month after 26 years on the table, is a culmination of an agreement reached between the Chinese government and SWAPO, then led by Sam Nujoma.
SWAPO Party Youth League Secretary at the time of the negotiations, Dr Elijah Ngurare confirmed during an interview that there were discussions between China and SWAPO regarding funding for a new party headquarters, but that they had advised the party leadership specifically the Founding President to decline those terms in the national interest.
“In the past negotiations these demands were there,” Ngurare said referring to the farm and Uranium EPLs.
“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 said.
Contacted for comment this week, Iivula-Ithana, who was SWAPO Secretary General between 2007 and 2012, said she would not add anything to the story that was carried last week by the Windhoek Observer as the information was accurate.
“The information that I have is the same with what Ngurare gave you. It is information that we witnessed and information that we know,” Iivula-Ithana said.
Former SWAPO Party Deputy Secretary for Economic Affairs and ex-Cabinet minister, Kazenamabo Kazenambo, however challenged Ngurare and Iivula-Ithana to provide proof of their statements.
Kazenambo, who was SWAPO Party Deputy Economic Secretary between 2012 and 2017, argued in an interview that there was never such a proposal or agreement with the Chinese.
“The story that you wrote last week has no iota of truth whatsoever,” Kazenambo charged.
“There were proposals on the table to fund construction of the new party headquarters based on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) and PPP models, but those were rejected in favour of using our own funding.
“I remember one day during a Central Committee meeting when the current President Hage Geingob suggested that SWAPO companies should contribute funds to the project. The Department of Economic Affairs, which I was the Deputy Chair, was tasked with securing funding from SWAPO companies, and as a result, a lot of funding was unlocked as SWAPO companies started funding millions.
“What you wrote last week is not the official version of SWAPO as far as I am concerned. Maybe it is something that Ngurare, Pendukeni and the Founding President knew about, but it was never the official position of SWAPO.”
Kazenambo said the decision to construct a new party headquarters was carried out through a congress resolution in the 90s and there was no link to the Chinese or any developmental partners.
“It is an internal SWAPO issue which has been going on since the 90s. Back then we were collecting money and fundraising through membership fees, but a decision was taken for SWAPO companies to contribute the bulk of the money after we realised that funding through membership fees was not bringing in the desired results.”
SWAPO has several businesses in different sectors of the economy including its flagship Kalahari Holdings which has subsidiaries Namib Contract Haulage, New Dawn Video Production, NamPrint, Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, Kudu Investment, Klondike Properties and Farm de Rust.
The party is also in joint ventures with MultiChoice Namibia, MWeb Namibia, Namibia Protection Services, Kalisata Mining Enterprises and NamHealth.
Kazenambo said Iivula-Ithana and Ngurare should not give false information that there were discussions with the Chinese for funding of the new SWAPO headquarters in exchange for EPLs and a farm.
“When did SWAPO assume power to dish out EPLS and farms to Chinese or anyone for that matter? Is it not the ministries of lands and mines?
“At which meeting was this discussed? And can the Chinese also confirm where this was discussed. Even if they confirm, they would be lying through their teeth because the issue of the headquarters has nothing to do with the Chinese.
“The departments of finance and economic affairs were and are in charge of this project, it was never a Pendukeni, Nujoma, Pohamba, Geingob or Mbumba issue. If they were negotiating on their own, maybe that one is known by them, but according to the official version that can be proven with documents and minutes there is no such thing.”
Kazenambo further said the late Peter Ilonga and Geingob were against the BOT and PPP models because they were against the alienation of SWAPO assets.
“When we are talking about PPP and BOT, it means that you are alienating SWAPO assets and it took us to time to convince the likes of the late Ilonga and many others who did not comprehend what BOT was all about.
“As we were battling with the issue of BOT and PPP the current president asked why we were giving ourselves a headache when the party has companies. It was then agreed that SWAPO companies must have a role in financing the HQ. We were then tasked to speak to all the SWAPO companies about the HQ to open up investments and to see how they can contribute to the HQ because this collection of SWAPO membership fees was not helping.
Kazenambo could, however, not say how much the SWAPO companies had contributed to the construction of the new building.
“I will not say if the fundraising initiative has been a success or not…what I know is our companies are in the process and have been in the process of raising funds for the construction. So far, some of the money has been given and some of the money is still pledges. Our companies are working towards fulfilling their commitment,” he said.
Asked what he thinks of critics who are questioning the timing of the construction of the multi-million dollar building at a time when the country is faced with a crippling drought and government cannot raise enough money to pay students studying at the country’s tertiary institutions, Kazenambo said the criticism smacks of politics targeting Geingob.
“They are targeting Geingob because economic hardships and shortage of scholarships, drought and other issues facing society are not new so politics is dominating this debate and all reasoning is thrown out of the window.