Namibia: Kora Deal Concerns Raised in Vain

Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) chief executive officer Digu //Naobeb has told a High Court judge he was a lone voice when he raised concerns about an agreement the NTB concluded with a company that was supposed to stage the All Africa Kora Music Awards in Namibia in 2016.

Testifying in the Windhoek High Court on Monday, //Naobeb told judge Herman Oosthuizen the NTB was concerned that the company Mundial Telecom SARL, which proposed to host the Kora awards ceremony in Namibia in March 2016 and which the NTB paid about N$23,5 million to promote Namibia as a tourist destination, was not registered in Namibia.

He said he was also concerned that the company did not have a bank account in Namibia, and this requirement was made part of the draft of an agreement between the NTB and Mundial Telecom, which is registered in Benin.

However, when the Office of the Attorney General took over the drafting of the agreement, the proposed clause requiring a Namibian bank account was removed from the agreement, and a lawyer from the attorney general's office told him his concerns were taken care of in the rest of the agreement, //Naobeb said.

On questions from the judge, //Naobeb said he was "basically a lone voice", and that his concerns were thrown to the wind.

//Naobeb is the first witness to testify during the hearing on a claim for the payment of US$1,5 million, which the NTB filed against Mundial Telecom, the company's president, Ernest Adjovi, and its former Namibian representative, Tonata Shiimi, in September 2016.

The NTB withdrew its claim against Shiimi in May 2019 - nearly a year after Oosthuizen ruled that the High Court does not have jurisdiction over Adjovi in his personal capacity, since he is not a resident of Namibia and no property belonging to him had been attached in Namibia to establish the court's jurisdiction over him.

ADJOVI'S CLAIMS

Adjovi was not present in court during the hearing of //Naobeb's testimony on Monday.

In a witness statement by him that has been filed with the court, Adjovi claims he had a friendship with president Hage Geingob which included visits to each other and regular tennis games, and that Geingob and the then attorney general Sacky Shanghala "were well aware of the circumstances surrounding this matter".

He also claims Shanghala was responsible for the drafting of agreements between Mundial Telecom and the NTB, and also between the company and the Namibian government, and that Shanghala was also aware of "various breaches" of the agreements which resulted in the NTB suing his company.

The NTB, represented by //Naobeb, and Mundial Telecom, represented by Adjovi, in December 2015 signed an agreement in terms of which the company undertook to promote Namibia as a tourist destination through television clips that were to be shown in African countries participating in the Kora All Africa Music Awards.

The agreement also had a clause stating that Mundial Telecom was to repay the US$1,5 million it had received from the NTB for the Namibian tourism promotional campaign within 60 days if the awards ceremony did not take place in Namibia.

The NTB is claiming that after the awards show did not take place as touted by Adjovi and Mundial Telecom, the company failed to repay the money and used the funds it had received from the NTB for purposes other than those intended and agreed to by the company and the tourism board.

In his witness statement, Adjovi also says the awards show did not take place in Namibia after the Ministry of Finance did not issue a waiver on the payment of value-added tax on equipment and goods which were to be imported to be used for the ceremony.

He further claims the NTB breached its agreement with his company by being late with its payment of the US$1,5 million - at that stage the equivalent of N$23,5 million - to the company.

According to Adjovi, Mundial Telecom spent more than the N$23,5 million it had received from the NTB to pay its suppliers for the planned show.

//Naobeb testified that the NTB paid the US$1,5 million in December 2015, January 2016 and February 2016 in four bank transfers to a bank account in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, through banks in Germany and Spain.

The hearing of the case is due to continue today.

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