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Big guns in tug of war

19 June 2015 Author  

front big guns 19 juneThe Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa is under pressure to deliver the final verdict on the sale of six prime erven in the city centre to a group of Italian developers.

 

This follows an objection raised by a local company whose application for the same land was rejected by the municipality.

The Windhoek Observer is in possession of a letter addressed to the Mayor of Windhoek Muesee Kazapua on 18 May 2015 from the unsuccessful applicant, Managing Director of NDI Holdings (Pty) Ltd David Imbili.

Imbili, whose application to purchase erven 146, 147, 148, 150, R/152 and 6577 through private treaty, was turned down by the municipality last year.

In the letter, Imbili raises strong objections to the sale of the erven to Italian businessmen operating through Holme Namibia Investments Pty Ltd, who contracted local businessman David Shimwino as a consultant.

The NDI Holdings MD gives a detailed background of the exchange of information between his company and the City of Windhoek from the initial date of application of the land in 2011 until the present.

Imbili, who claimed foul play, highlighted that his company applied for those erven long before any other entity.

“A letter was written to then Chief Executive Officer Niilo Taapopi on 10 October 2011 applying to purchase these erven.

“Right from the onset I indicated that it was our intention to construct a mixed use business development to be called Sam Nujoma Square.

“On 24 October 2011 we received a reply from Manager: Property Management Elly Shipiki that our application is hereby acknowledged,” the letter reads.

He continued to enquire in the months that followed with both Taapopi and Shipiki about his application. The two gave him assurance that both management and the council where giving his application attention.

Imbili however became suspicious after 14 months had passed without any feedback and decided to write a follow up letter on 05 February 2013.

This time he copied the then Mayor Agnes Kafula and Chairman of the Management Committee Moses Shiikwa into the letter.

The City of Windhoek did not give NDI Holdings and its partners the opportunity to present the conceptual design for the proposed development until 16 September 2013.

Imbili’s letter said that at that stage, he and his partners again received assurances that the municipality had received no other pending applications for those properties.

On 15 October 2013, NDI Holdings received a letter from the Department of Economic Development and Environment requesting further information.

The letter further stated that one of the erven, erf 5757, belonged to a private owner and that NDI Holdings should negotiate with the owner directly.

“On 7 February 2014, in response to a letter dated 30 January 2013 we submitted our proposal for the development.

“We heard nothing from the city after our submission and on 2 May 2014 I came across a newspaper article in the Namibian stating that the municipality intended to sell the properties to Holme Investments an Italian-owned company,” the letter further reads.

At that juncture, Imbili and his partners instructed their lawyers Koep and Partners to engage the council on its intended sale of the properties to Holme Namibia Investments.

On 19 June 2014 NDI Holdings received a letter from the office of the CEO stating that their application to purchase properties was unsuccessful as per Council Resolution 99/04/2014 following due considerations.

NDI Holdings later filed an objection to to the sale of the erven to Holme Investment Namibia on 03 October 2014.

In Imbili’s letter to Kazapua, he questioned the outcome of the council’s meeting on 25 November 2014, where council resolved to proceed with the intended sale of the properties to Holmes despite their objection.

“We find it disturbing that our objection has not been considered despite having been lodged in time. We are very much aware that our submission and initial proposal threatened to derail some people’s, (within the council and staff), hidden vested interests in these properties.

“We are also aware of a business associate of a former employee of council now making frantic calls to those within council to have the land transferred to Holme, although nowhere are they listed as shareholders of Holme.

“When considering our grounds for objection, it is unfortunate that the process leading up to the council’s decision to sell the properties to Holme, seems to have been tainted with favouritism and undue preference,” the letter reads.

Imbili seemed less enthusiastic than he was in his letter when contacted for comment earlier this week about the accusations he made against the City Management Committee in the letter to the mayor.

“I would not like to say much at this stage, everything is with the line minister for her consideration, and we will rather wait to see the outcome, as she has the final say,” he said.

But Shimwino was happy to discuss not only his involvement in the process, but his business connections to the Italians.

He produced the agreement he entered with Holme Investment Namibia in July 2014.

He said the Italians had applied for the land on their own, and only solicited his services once council had written to tell them that their application had succeeded.

“Like any other consultant I was brought on board to serve a purpose. In this case the company saw the need to have a local partner who could from thereon assist with negotiations with the city and overcome any obstacles that could arise from the project,” Shimwino said.

He dismissed suggestions that the application by the Italians was successful because of his close friendship and association with Taapopi.

“Like any other Namibian I have the right to do business with the city or represent the interest of foreign investors doing business with the city, irrespective of who my friends are,” Shimwino argued.

The businessman revealed that he had approached Charles Namoloh, the former Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (now Urban and Rural Development) and current Minister Sophia Shaningwa to present the Rhino Towers development project.

“This was in fact what I was hired to do, to tackle any possible obstacles along the project’s way, and I will continue to do so until the completion of Rhino Towers, as per my contract.”

Shimwino said Government was not doing itself any favours by subjecting foreign investors to this kind of bureaucracy and internal political power play.

He warned that investors could easily become fed up and choose to invest their money elsewhere.

Approached for comment, Namoloh said the municipality had sent the file to him for consideration.

He however said that the file arrived only a few weeks before President Geingob deployed him to another ministry leaving “the case in the capable hands of the current minister.”

Shaningwa told the Windhoek Observer that she was aware of the applications and the objections.

She said she had received the file of one of the parties and was waiting for the other company to submit their file to her, so that she could study them both.

Attempts to contact Mayor Kazapua for comment proved unsuccessful.

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