14 November 2012

Namibia: State House a 'Private Family House' - Kaapanda

THE Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joël Kaapanda, yesterday defended President Hifikepunye Pohamba's decision to host selected business personalities at State House by saying the dinner was not held at State House but at "the private residence of the President".

The President's official residence, which is owned by the State, is located within the new State House complex.

The Namibian on Monday reported that Pohamba had hosted a secret dinner at State House on Thursday evening and that it was attended by about 20 prominent businesspeople invited to share dinner with top government leaders.

The dinner raised questions about why the ruling party used the taxpayer-owned State House as a venue for its political events.

"I wish to point out that the dinner in question was not held at State House but at the private residence of the President which is also a family house for the Pohamba family during his presidency," Kaapanda said in a media statement yesterday.

He added that there is no ideal place for the President to entertain his guests other than the official residence.

The newspaper report was followed up with an editorial headlined: 'Leaders Up for Sale?' in yesterday's paper which questioned the purpose of the dinner and stated that "Swapo leaders are aggressively seeking out businesspeople suggests that political power and influence has moved from the villages and township streets to the auction block".

According to Kaapanda, the question on whether the dinner was a social or political event is immaterial.

He said Pohamba has the right to invite whoever he wishes and discussions around the table can either be social or political.

"The President has an entertainment budget approved by Parliament which he can use at his own discretion".

The minister said the dinner was not a fundraising dinner as reported.

"It does not make sense as alleged that the dinner in question was a fundraising function for the Swapo congress. If that was the case, many people would have been invited," he said.

By making that comment, Kaapanda contradicted Leon Jooste, a businessman and Swapo politician who was part of the organising team and attended the secret dinner.

Former deputy minister Jooste revealed that the dinner was aimed at raising funds for the upcoming party congress.

He said that only those who promised to pledge N$100 000 were allowed to attend the dinner.

Kaapanda said Pohamba is known for his open-door policy even though some businesspeople said they were put off by the idea that a pow-wow with top national leaders must be paid for.

Among those who attended was Knowledge Katti, who confirmed over the weekend that he had pledged N$500 000.

Questions were asked on what the businesspeople would expect in return. Some sources said those who pledged donations would have free access to the congress.

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