Namibia: Agribusdev Leaves Uugwanga Hanging

The Ministry of Public Enterprises has approved the suspension of Agribusdev managing director Petrus Uugwanga.

The ministry said, the reason for the suspension, however, cannot be revealed as it will compromise an ongoing investigation.

Uugwanga was suspended early this week from the green scheme custodian entity Agribusdev to pave the way for allegations against him to be investigated.

Minister of public enterprises Leon Jooste, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform and Agribusdev board of director chairperson Sophia Kasheeta are mum on what motivated the suspension.

"We approved, but I cannot share the reasons as it will compromise the investigation," Jooste said.

Kasheeta revealed the suspension could be related to the performance of the public entity and its inability to sustain itself despite managing more than 11 green schemes around the country.

The entity is constantly begging for a wage subsidy despite a capital injection from the government in green schemes.

Uugwanga has been at the helm of Agribusdev since 2013.

A source close to the matter said Uugwanga made most decisions concerning the parastatal, making it difficult for other senior managers to provide their input.

The source said the board failed to notice issues as Uugwanga reported to the board himself.

If it was not for delayed salaries and the steady requests for cash injections, the board and line ministry may not have picked up much, the source said.

Around 700 000 Namibians are food insecure, yet Agribusdev has more than 11 green schemes.

According to the Namibian Agronomic Board production forecast, local producers are expected to harvest 64 039 tonnes of produce - which is 5 961 tonnes lower than what the market demands.

The board relies on South Africa for the 5 961 tonne shortage to ensure sufficient supply.

Despite 11 green schemes and subsidies, more than half of the demand for fruit and vegetables will be imported from South Africa for the next five months, the board says.

The total projected local demand for the next six months stands at 48 580 tonnes, while local producers are expected to produce only 22 042 tonnes in the period under review.

DEPENDENCE SYNDROME

For the past years, Agribusdev has been knocking on the doors of the agriculture ministry to supplement its operational costs, joining the likes of Air Namibia and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

Currently, Agribusdev has four green schemes that are unable to pay their salaries - Sadikongoro, Kalimbeza, Ndongalinene, and Sikondo.

The parastatal took their begging bowl to treasury to cover their salary costs.

The executive director of agriculture, water and land reform, Percy Misika, said only Agribusev's management would be able to tell whether the 11 green schemes produced anything to sell and sustain themselves.

"If so, what crops did they produce and what quantities?" he asked.

He said it is a known fact that Cabinet directed all government entities, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to source or procure agricultural produce from local producers.

The directive was subsequently amplified through a directive that was issued by the treasury directing all executive directors and chief executive officers of SOEs to ensure that the food needs of their institutions are sourced from local producers.

Misika said "AgribusDev management should understand the market and produce what is required by the market".

Agribusdev chief agronomist Julia Nambili said the parastatal has the potential to sustain itself if all the hectares at the green schemes were utilised and plantation was done timely.

She said the 11 green schemes planted late and more than 70% of their crops are still on the ground, which is why produce was low and salaries could not be paid.

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