Namibia: Wakudumo Fingered in Wu's Rental Deal

KAVANGO East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo has been accused of facilitating a proposal by a company owned by Chinese businesswoman Stina Wu to secure rental contracts with various government offices, ministries and agencies.

Wu's company, Helmsman Group, which owns multiple properties at Rundu, has proposed to rent some of its premises out to government offices, ministries and agencies operating in the Kavango East region.

Sources say Wakudumo has been at the forefront of this proposal, trying to convince various government institutions to take the deal.

The Namibian was told that Wakudumo at the end of last year organised an "urgent" meeting at which Wu's company was given the opportunity to present its proposal to councillors and officials.

This meeting reportedly took place at the regional council's premises, while some of the new councillors received induction training outside Rundu.

Some regional councillors are questioning why the governor used government property to conduct this meeting.

Wu - whose real name is Qiaoxia Wu - has been in Namibia for more than 20 years. Over the past few years, she has faced allegations of using proxies to access land at various northern towns.

RENT-TO-OWN

A proposal seen by The Namibian shows that Wu's company wants to rent out a complex called Galaxy Mall at Rundu to government institutions and ministries. The mall is made up of approximately 50 units, and currently hosts various retail stores, among other things.

The company is proposing a rent-to-own plan, which will allow ministries and government agencies to own units in the complex.

The proposal did not disclose estimated rental fees, but said it would be calculated "as the average of the current rental payment of particular government institutions".

Wu's company said the purpose of the proposed rental arrangement is to improve the usage of its mall.

Another reason was that the mall would be convenient to citizens as government offices would be accessible at a centralised location. It would also be convenient for civil servants to go shopping during lunch or after hours.

"This was just a proposal, and Helmsman Group has not entered into any consultation process or agreement with any government office, ministry or agency," Wu said.

A person familiar with the matter said: "It will be very difficult for anyone just to stand up and say I am going to build a government office park. Where will you get the guts from - especially when you are a foreigner? Unless it is a governor's agenda. It looks like they have been having secret meetings all along."

Rundu rural constituency councillor Paulus Mbangu this week said the council was not consulted when Wakudumo called for this meeting.

"We are waiting for the council meeting so that we can get a full picture of the deal. We were never consulted on the meeting which took place. It appears people are just doing their underhanded things, but we won't allow it," Mbangu said.

He said he would reject the proposal should it appear to him that there are sinister motives. Chairperson of the regional council Damian Maghambayi is also in the dark about Wu's proposal to the region.

The chief regional officer of the Kavango East region, Ludwig Thikusho, was not informed of the meeting called by Wakudumo either.

He said he was at Otjowarongo at the time and the governor did not brief him on the proposal upon his return.

'NOTHING SINISTER'

Wu this week said her company went through Wakudumo's office, since "it is the first point of entry in terms of meeting the leadership and stakeholders".

She dismissed claims that she is using the governor to get state contracts.

"We would like to state that there is no sinister motive about the proposal, and as such there is no agreement which exists between the office of the governor and Helmsman Group or its subsidiaries, nor its executives," Wu said.

She added: "It is normal business practice to submit such proposals to government departments for rent seeking. Due to Covid-19, we have not submitted the lease scheme to the government departments and have not entered into any consultation process."

The Namibian last year reported that Wu's company was allocated more than 270 plots by the Oshakati Town Council due to her alleged links to Oshakati's former chief executive officer, Werner Iita.

Property deeds seen by The Namibian show that Wu also bought land at Rundu in 2012, which she subdivided into more than 200 plots for housing.

Some of the houses were sold to Chinese nationals.

Wu's transactions at Oshakati and Rundu show her business dealings often include roping key politicians into her companies.

For instance, her business partner Chris Shivolo is a former Helao Nafidi town chief executive.

Minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Utoni Nujoma, police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga, former Okahandja mayor Valerie Aron and councillors at towns such as Rundu rank among her friends.

She often funds trips for councillors to China.

Contacted for comment, Wakudumo said he had nothing to clarify regarding allegations that he was colluding with Wu.

"I don't think I have time to respond to these things. That thing has been addressed and we have already put it to rest. If you want clarity, just send the questions in writing so that we respond to you," he said.

He did not respond to questions sent to him at the time of going to print.

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