Windhoek — Defence Minister Penda ya Ndakolo admitted to fellow lawmakers in the National Assembly this week that he did not inform President Hage Geingob, who doubles as commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces, about the military's decision to purchase the N$45 million Oropoko farm.
The reason for failing to inform President Geingob ahead of the purchase, said ya Ndakolo, was because of Geingob's heavy schedule.
"At the time of the purchase of Oropoko farm, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Namibia and commander-in-chief of Namibian Defence Force, was not briefed due to his heavy schedule. He has however now been properly briefed on the matter," ya Ndakolo told the National Assembly.
The purchase of Oropoko farm, situated some 60 kilometres north-west of Okahandja, caused alarm when it first appeared in the media especially given its costs and at a time the defence ministry was reportedly sending soldiers home to cut operational costs.
This prompted Geingob to publicly remark: "I hope what I read is not true, that the Ministry of Defence bought a farm for N$45 million while they are sending troops home. I do not know if it was done last year. Minister, we need to talk, because I do not see the urgency, while we are sending people back (home)."
In his address to the National Assembly, ya Ndakolo said not only was farm Oropoko purchased in March 2017, but it was also purchased after abandoning an approved and budgeted spending of setting up a shooting range at farm Etiro in Karibib area, at a cost of N$2,37 billion.
That spending, he said, was registered with the National Planning Commission to take place in phases. with the first phase costing N$500 million. The first phase design was to accommodate 300 soldiers.
"While pondering on the huge costs of the base [at Etiro farm], an offer to purchase Oropoko farm was given," says ya Ndakolo. He maintains that Oropoko is suitable for the base that was to be set up at Etiro farm.
"Oropoko has well developed infrastructure such as accommodation facilities for up to 300 soldiers, aircraft landing strip, helicopter pad, shooting range, swimming pool, laundry, conference centre, a mechanical workshop, independent water infrastructure and besides being connected to the national electricity grid, it has a local electricity generating capacity," says ya Ndakolo.
He also insists that at N$45 million, the costs of purchase are much cheaper when compared to the original asking price of N$69 million and the N$500 million that was planned for the development of the same base at Etiro farm.
Ya Ndakolo maintained that although he failed to inform Geingob on the matter, all procedures were followed. "The purchase contact was negotiated through the necessary legal processes, including passing through the Office of Attorney-General. The settlement of the contract was also done through the Ministry of Finance as per State Finance Act and was signed between the owner and the permanent secretary of Works and Transport which is the custodian of government properties," he said.
The minister said despite the financial crisis, there exists the need to purchase the farm due to lack of infrastructures to accommodate national defence force as most of the infrastructures built during the colonial era where made from the prefabricated material and have since dilapidated, while some where turned into private properties after independence.
"The purchasing of Oropoko farm is not only a gain to the Ministry of Defence but it is also a benefit to the government and to Namibian people in general," he said.