The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Ministry Misled in Jet Lease

THE campaign team of former Prime Minister Hage Geingob seems to have misled the Ministry of Works and Transport about his use of the presidential jet last weekend.

The Namibian has seen documents in which the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Peter Mwatile, criticised Geingob's personal assistant Esau Mbako for failing to disclose that the jet was being hired for personal use and that the cost would be paid privately too.

Mbako requested the aircraft under the guise of ministerial use although it was meant to fly the Minister of Trade to campaign for the position of Swapo vice president.

The documents show that Mwatile on Tuesday told the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry that Geingob's campaign team did not follow correct procedures in getting the Lear Jet.

Mbako made two requests, dated November9 and 15 , on the letterhead of the Trade and Industry Ministry.

Mwatile on Tuesday complained to the Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry, Malan Lindeque, that the request was explicitly made for the use of the Ministry of Trade and Industry "but now we are told verbally that these travels were private and the honourable minister [Geingob] will advance payments as an individual".

"Colleague, your good office is kindly requested to provide to this ministry the individual particulars where we can invoice the relevant tariff rates at your soonest convenient time," Mwatile wrote.

Mbako wrote in one of the letters: "We hereby request for your assistance in availing the government Lear Jet for use by the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Sunday, 11 November to fly from Eros Airport to Walvis Bay Airport proceeding to Opuwo Airport and returning to Windhoek on the same day."

In the other letter dated November 15, Mbako asked for the jet to transport Geingob to various towns starting with Katima Mulilo on November 16, Rundu the following day and Keetmanshoop on November 18 before returning to Windhoek.

Mwatile also admonished the trade ministry for communicating with a junior flight officer rather than making their request through his office, as is the norm.

Mbako told The Namibian yesterday that he told the junior flight operations officer, Simon Kakwambi, after submitting the request that it was for personal use.

He did not realise he needed to state categorically that the aircraft would be hired for private use.

"It was an error. I thought it was not necessary to include that it was personal," Mbako said.

He confirmed receiving the letter from Mwatile and that they responded yesterday giving the invoicing details of the minister.

Mbako also said that the Geingob team followed the correct procedures and they were surprised that the Works Ministry complained about the use of the word "personal" because he was informed by Kakwambi that it was okay even if he did not state that it was for personal use.

Joe Shipepe, the undersecretary of Government Transport Services in the ministry, said government departments pay N$9 900 per hour for using the Lear Jet while non-government parties are charged U$2 200 per hour at the exchange rate of the day.

Some of the people who travelled with the presidential hopeful were listed as "Cde Hage Geingob Jnr", Cabinet minister and central committee member Nickey Iyambo, Swapo deputy secretary general Nangolo Mbumba, and Swapo regional coordinators Erginus Endjala and Godhard Kasuto.

Geingob's use of the presidential jet has been criticised by especially the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL), which argued that the trade minister (whose candidacy is backed by President Hifikepunye Pohamba) received preferential treatment over the other two candidates, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo.

All three candidates have been criticised for using State resources for their party-political activities.

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