8 February 2018

Namibia: Ndf Buys N$45 Million Farm

The defence ministry has spent about N$45 million to acquire a farm that will be used to train soldiers to live in harmony with wildlife, and to practise 'perfect shooting skills', amongst others.

The farm in question is Oropoko, located about 60 kilometres north-west of Okahandja.

The defence ministry's public relations head, Petrus Shilumbu, confirmed the purchase to The Namibian yesterday, saying the initial asking price for the farm was N$69 million.

The farm was purchased in September last year.

"The price was negotiated. It was supposed to be N$69 million, but the ministry bought the farm for N$45 million," Shilumbu said, adding that the farm will house one of Namibia Defence Force (NDF)'s units, which does not have a base.

He said the ministry bought the farm because it was "strategically located not far from the capital [Windhoek]", and has a helipad and an airfield which the NDF intends to transform into a military airport.

Shilumbu added that Defence also bought the farm because the farmhouse has a well-developed laundry, conference centre, kitchens, accommodation facilities and a mechanical workshop, where the troops can maintain NDF vehicles without having to travel to town for repairs.

The farm has well-developed water infrastructure and a local electricity generation system, he added.

Unfortunately, the purchase came at a time when the ministry was implementing cost-cutting measures to save funds.

The Namibian reported last month that the NDF had sent thousands of its troops from different bases on long leave because the entity can no longer afford to feed them as well as service water and electricity bills.

Defence has been among the biggest beneficiaries of state budgets, alongside the education and health ministries.

However, the ministry has been criticised for either underspending its budget, or misappropriating funds.

The report of auditor general Junias Kandjeke for the 2015/16 financial year indicates that the ministry had overspent by over N$50 million through subsistence and travel allowances.

The ministry then returned about N$370 million to treasury that year.

The ministry's chief of staff: joint operations, major general Ben Kadhila told The Namibian yesterday that the purchase of the farm had nothing to do with cost-cutting, and was part of the NDF's 10-year-infrastructure development plan that goes back to 2012, ending in 2022.

"The NDF's 10-year development plan made provision for the acquisition of capital projects, and the purchase of the farm falls into that category.

"It has nothing to do with the cost-cutting measures that came about because of the economic crisis that hit the country the previous year," Kadhila explained.

He added that the NDF would not make a profit from the farm as it will be used for training purposes.

The major general said the NDF will only recoup the cost of buying the farm through the top-level training of its troops, "so that they become effective in their operations to protect wildlife, which is considered to be one of the major contributors to the economy of the country".

He said the lodge on the farm (Orokopo lodge) will also not be sold or used to accommodate tourists.

"The price might sound high, but the benefits to be derived from Oropoko farm outweigh the costs, in our view. One of the NDF's peacetime roles is the protection of the environment, including wildlife, hence the need to train the troops to live in harmony with wild animals," he reiterated.

One of the factors which motivated the NDF to buy the farm was the variety of wildlife species found on the farm, Kadhila said.

He added that the animals would be used for training troops to live in harmony with animals, to protect them without disturbance, and not "killing them for the pot".

The "Olympic standard" shooting range will also be used as a training area to "perfect the shooting skills of the troops".

"We do not only protect people, but animals as well. The animals are part of the training. In fact, one of the motivating factors for us to acquire that farm is for us to train on how to protect wild animals from poachers," he noted.

Kadhila, however, could not confirm the date on which the "unit without a base" will relocate to the 11 000 hectare farm.

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