10 August 2018

Namibia: Keetmans Corruption Probe Ongoing

AN investigation into a host of irregularities at the Keetmanshoop municipality is continuing, Anti-Corruption Commission head of investigations Nelius Becker says.

"Since the information received concerns some allegations, an investigation into the matter has not been finalised, and is ongoing," he wrote in an email response on Tuesday when The Namibian enquired about the complaint.

A whistle-blower within the municipality filed the complaint on the irregularities with the anti-graft watchdog in September 2017.

The alleged irregularities include the withdrawal of an appeal application against an arbitrator's award, the creation of a mayoral support service department with only one employee, the withdrawal of a court application to evict illegal occupants from municipal townlands, the stoppage of a land servicing project, and the reversal of a land allocation council decision.

According to the whistle-blower, the council had through a motion tabled by former councillor Justine Louw withdrawn an appeal application their predecessors had lodged with the Labour Court against a decision by an arbitrator in 2015.

The arbitrator had ordered the council to reinstate economic development manager Josef Rooi, and pay him N$206 329.

Rooi had lodged a case of unfair labour practice with the Office of the Labour Commissioner, alleging he was "demoted without any just cause".

The whistle-blower claimed that Louw had lied that former urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa advised council not to proceed with the appeal against the arbitrator's award and that the litigation was too costly.

"Both the above reasons are half-truths at best or outright misrepresentations of the facts because, firstly, the minister had, in fact, asked the council not to appeal so that she could seek advice from the Office of the Attorney General. Such advise was received and communicated to the council, but never considered" the complaint letter reads.

The informant also charged that mayor Gaudentia Krohne, Rooi and Louw were good friends.

The Namibian understands that the AG's office notified council it could not give them advice on whether to withdraw or proceed with the arbitration award appeal application because it was part of the litigation through having rendered legal advice to the labour commissioner, who was a respondent in the matter.

The informant further alleged that there was no need for the creation of the mayoral support services department with one employee only, and charged that Louw, who tabled the motion falsely, submitted that the establishment of the said division was based on findings of an investigation which had been carried out at other local authorities.

According to the findings, said the whistle-blower, it was found that similar departments had existed at the municipalities of Upington in South Africa, at Swakopmund and in Windhoek.

No reference to the investigation's findings had been presented to the council when it had discussed the establishment of the new mayoral service department, the source said.

The complaint letter further states that council had reached a lopsided agreement with several townlands tenants - some related to councillors - who had refused to vacate the municipal camps when their lease agreements expired in 2013.

The tenants who faced eviction from the townlands had their lease agreements extended for five years at the charge of N$1 per hectare a month.

The biggest challenge, said the informant, was that mayor KrÖhne had been negotiating from "both sides" because her husband was one of those illegally occupying municipal camps.

The source also alleged that during October 2016, the mayor unlawfully directed engineers, who were appointed through a legal bidding process, to halt a land servicing project at the town's Noordhoek Extension 5 location, and instead presented a counter-proposal for the servicing of the township.

The complainant further said a group of councillors, through a motion, had withdrawn a resolution of land allocated to a consortium of Finnish and Namibian companies for the construction of houses at Keetmanshoop's KrÖnlein residential area, and instead offered the same land to another housing developer, Ongoshi.

The withdrawal of the above resolution came when the partners had just started completing planning and feasibility studies.

The whistle-blower further alleged that Ongoshi had hired a municipal employee, Nimrod Swartz, who allegedly was a friend of the mayor's husband, to draw building plans on its behalf after the council had allocated it the land.

"There is no doubt that Swartz is a household friend of the mayor and her husband and could, therefore, share profits of his ill-gotten riches with friends," the letter reads.

Louw on Wednesday said the Swapo-dominated council, on the instruction of the //Karas Swapo Party, had withdrawn the motions which had proposed the withdrawal, pending eviction and appeal court cases, as the people involved were party cadres.

"It was not about friendship, but it was an instruction from the //Karas Swapo Party as these cases involved party members," she said.

KrÖhne said the ACC had not approached her regarding the complaint on irregularities in which she was implicated.

"If they approach me, I will state my case to prove no wrongdoing on my part," she added.

Swartz said the allocation of land was not part of his duties, adding that he had been doing business with Ongoshi in the past, even before KrÖhne's election as the mayor of the town.

On his part, Rooi said he was not aware of any investigations into alleged corruption.

"All I know is that I had instructed my lawyers to defend the appeal against the arbitrator's award, which was in my favour, but later was informed the appeal had been withdrawn," he added.

- luqman@namibian.com.na

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