1 February 2018

Namibia: Defence Sends 1000s On Leave

Photo: The Namibian
Namibia Defence Force (file photo)

Thousands of army personnel staying at the seven bases around the country will be forced to take leave with effect from next month.

Those who are already on leave have been asked not to report for duty since the army can no longer afford to feed them as well as food the water and electricity bills.

The defence ministry was allocated N$5,6 billion of the national budget for the 2017/2018 financial year.

This was less than the N$5,9 billion they had received in the 2016/2017 financial year.

The auditor-general's report for the financial year ended 31 March 2016 stated that the defence ministry had returned N$370 million to the treasury.

The defence ministry's acting public relations head, major Petrus Shilumbu, yesterday confirmed that some personnel would be sent on leave.

Although he could not give the number of the personnel involved, citing confidentiality, www.globalfirepower.com says Namibia's defence has 15 500 men and women.

The website that claims to provide a unique analytical display of data concerning over 130 modern military powers says 9 000 of the 15 500 were active.

Sources, however, said each of the seven bases has anything between 700 and 1 000 officers.

“You know that the country is going through an economic struggle. We have to take measures to cope,” he said, adding that this was a common practice.

“It is common all over the world. You will not find 100% troops in a military base,” he stated.

Shilumbu told The Namibian that the ministry's leave policy allows for 30% of the troops to go on leave, while 70% remain at the bases for any eventuality.

He added that the army personnel to be sent on leave will still be paid salaries, and their leave days will not be reduced.

Those who are not going on leave will continue with all operations, such as training.

Part of the reason why the army had resorted to sending personnel on forced leave could be because it owes municipalities millions of dollars.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting held in the capital yesterday, Windhoek municipality chief executive officer Robert Kahimise said the defence ministry owes the city N$4 million for water, electricity, rates and taxes.

Some soldiers told The Namibian that water and electricity supplies to some bases could be cut soon.

Shilumbu, however, refuted these claims, saying the ministry had paid the municipality N$8 million on 25 January.

“That transaction is in process. We have settled our account with the City of Windhoek,” he noted.

Kahimise could not be reached for comment late yesterday to verify Shilumbu's claims.

Although defence receives the third-biggest chunk of the national budget, much of it is spent on buying new equipment, despite the fact that it has a company that produces military hardware.

Windhoeker Maschinenfabrik, a subsidiary of August 26, specialises in the production, sales and logistics support of quality ballistic and mine-protected vehicles. August 26 is also into textile, construction and agriculture.

August 26 chief executive officer, retired brigadier general James Auala was quoted in 2016 as saying the company's financial status would not be tabled in the National Assembly as it is a private entity.

The Namibian reported in September last year that defence had overspent in four different departments, and that there was an unexplained N$50,4 million paid out in subsistence and travel allowances.

Last week, The Namibian reported that a woman had been threatened with arrests and imprisonment by the inland revenue.

Although Helena Julias is not in the army, she was being asked to pay tax for the salary she receives from the army.

Shuuya confirmed that the NDF was aware of Julius' case and that they had investigated it in 2016.

He, however, said there is also another Helena Julias who is in the army.

Some sources said the army does not remove names of disqualified members from its payroll system, although Shuuya said Julias “never appeared on the list of short-listed candidates who were selected for medical examination in 2014”.

The finance ministry's commissioner for inland revenue, Justus Mafongwe, denied claims that they had threatened Julius with imprisonment.

Mafongwe said, however, that the department had Julius' records although he could not disclose much details.

A copy of Julius' tax certificate seen by The Namibian shows that she is in the army, yet she works as a cleaner.

Mafongwe also said that the finance ministry was not responsible for de-registering individuals from the revenue collection system as the individual “is responsible for ensuring that he or she is de-registered”.

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