22 February 2018

Namibia: Ya Ndakolo Downplays Farm Criticism

Photo: VideAdmiral/Wikipedia
Namibian army (file photo).

Defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo downplayed concerns that the decision to buy a N$45 million farm for the military was unprocedural, claiming that it was a cheaper offer.

Ya Ndakolo made these remarks in the National Assembly on Tuesday, a few days after The Namibian obtained documents that provided insight into the names of senior government officials who were part of this transaction.

The defence ministry last year splashed N$45 million on a portion of farm Okanapehuri (Oropoko Game Farm), located about 60 kilometres north-west of Okahandja in the Otjozondjupa region, to train troops.

The ministry's chief of staff: joint operations, major general Ben Kadhila last month told The Namibian that the farm was part of the NDF's 10-year infrastructure development plan, and that it was budgeted for.

The military has, however, come under fire for buying an expensive farm at a time when soldiers were being sent home because of a lack of money. Ya Ndakolo noted that the defence ministry bought another farm called Farm Etiro near Karibib in 2010 that was supposed to be transformed into an air force base.

The plan was to establish a shooting range for the air force and develop a base for one of the defence units - which includes the establishment of accommodation for about 300 soldiers.

This development, Ya Ndakolo claimed, might have cost government about N$2,3 billion.

He said the defence ministry then received a N$103 million offer to buy farm Oropoko near Okahandja.

The minister said they therefore shifted their attention to that farm in order to save costs since Farm Etiro was going to cost them a lot to develop, compared to Oropoko, which was already developed.

Public documents obtained from the land reform ministry show that the farm was initially owned by Marianne Luise Popp.

Popp, whose previous surname was Schmid, sold Oropoko farm -measuring 4 974 hectares - to Kurt Steinhausen in 1991 for N$1 million.

Steinhausen bought that farm through his company called Olympia Reisen Namibia.

The German businessman, who is considered a friend of former President Sam Nujoma, bought the land in 1991, one year after Namibia became independent.

Documents show that land reform minister Utoni Nujoma, the son of Namibia's Founding President, signed off the waiver of the farm.

While explaining the procedures followed during the purchase, Ya Ndakolo said the defence ministry roped in the land reform ministry to evaluate the farm.

He added that government, through the works ministry's permanent secretary, Willem Goeiemann, signed the purchase contract on behalf of the state on 25 September 2017 that was negotiated in consultation with former attorney general Sacky Shanghala.

The finance ministry processed the transaction, he said.

Goeiemann this week, however, denied signing the deed of sales of the farm, although adding that "nothing wrong was done" during the signing of the deal.

"I am the accounting officer of the ministry of works, and I am mandated as the accounting officer of that ministry to sign lease agreements on behalf of government offices, ministries and agencies, but that is not my signature," Goeiemann stressed.

The works PS furthermore contradicts Ya Ndakolo's claim that "all necessary procedures", were followed.

He said he has introduced measures to verify the process, and whether the farm was part of the budget.

"I can say that whoever signed it did nothing wrong [...] but for now I have introduced some measures for us to ensure that the money was budgeted for and approval was granted by the ministry of finance," he stated.


Members of parliament condemned Ya Ndakolo for saying President Hage Geingob was too busy to be briefed about the decision of the military to buy the farm. Geingob expressed concern two weeks ago during a Cabinet reshuffle announcement that it did not make sense to send soldiers home while spending N$45 million on buying a farm.

Ya Ndakolo said: "The commander-in-chief of the Namibian Defence Force was not briefed due to his heavy schedule. He has, however, been properly briefed now."

Ya Ndakolo said the ministry of defence's highest decision-making body, the defence staff council, approved the development plan for the military.

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