Namibia: Youth Consortium Cash Cow

(File photo).

A GROUP of Swapo connected youth and sport individuals are among the main beneficiaries of N$11,2 million paid from a fishing consortium co-owned by the state-owned National Youth Council and "Struggle Kids".

These details are contained in an investigation into finances of a youth entity called Uukumwe Youth Empowerment Consortium.

The entity was established in September 2010 to participate and invest in the fishing industry.

The National Youth Council (NYC) is one of the largest shareholders in Uukumwe Youth Empowerment Consortium. NYC owns a majority shareholding of 40% in that consortium through its business arm called Bridgehead (Pty) Ltd.

In turn, Uukumwe holds 20% shares in another youth joint venture called Yukor Fishing, an entity that made more than N$125 million from fishing quotas dished out by corruption accused former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau from 2012 to 2018.

Yukor Fishing is a youth business mainly led by well-connected "youngsters" with ties to the ruling party Swapo.

Documents seen by The Namibian show that Yukor Fishing and Uukumwe appear to have been used as a cash cow and an entity for earning pocket money by various individuals.

The board fees were mainly paid out at Yukor Fishing, a company that was led by Olavi Hamutumwa. Beneficiaries of the N$11,2 million board directors' fees included businessman Hamutumwa (N$1,6 million), Johannes Xoagub (N$1,3 million) and ex-Gibeon village council chief executive David Lamberth (N$1,2 million).

The money was paid into their accounts between 2012 and 2019.

Other board fees recipients include Bank Windhoek's executive officer of corporate and institutional banking Lukas Nanyemba (N$1 million), boxing promoter Kinda Nangolo (N$1 million) and Henok Nantanga (N$1 million). Nantanga, who is a man of the cloth has previous business dealings with a Swapo Youth League private company called Juventas Enterprises.

Oshipe Turnkey Projects's executive Jaques Coffee (N$1 million), Aubrey Boois (N$1,1 million) and Swapo's Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu (N$960 000).

The board members were responsible for managing the consortium's business interests of all shareholders, including ensuring full participation within the economy while fostering values of integrity, transparency, trust and honesty.

The N$11,2 million board fees saga is one of the concerns raised by members of the youth consortiums - Yukor and Uukumwe.

Some in the members believe several people enriched themselves from the company. Others believe that the main flight was the immediate payment of dollars from fishing quotas.

Those aggrieved mainly point accusing fingers at businessman Olavi Hamutumwa and his company Ongudi Investment which managed Uukumwe and Yukor. Hamutumwa has denied any wrongdoing.

These board fees bring to the fore the debate on how state-owned agencies are often used to justify dishing out fishing quotas to benefit particular cliques of connected individuals.

In this case, the National Youth Council (NYC) was key in this consortium as it represented young people. Its presence was often used as a selling point to Esau to continue dishing out quotas in the name of youth empowerment.

The NYC, which is set up to groom young leaders, has for years been led by Swapo youth leaders, despite being an organisation that represents diverse youth organisations including opposition political parties.

NYC which is funded by the ministry of youth and sport has for years complained about the lack of funds to implement some of its national projects.

In 2017, the then youth minister Jerry Ekandjo announced in parliament that an NYC-led credit scheme aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs was affected by budget reductions.

Yet, NYC's leadership appears to have decided not to benefit from the company that benefits from the fishing sector.

NYC's executive chairperson, Sharonice Busch, told The Namibian yesterday that Bridgehead which carries the interest of the youth organisation in Uukumwe and Yukor no longer pays dividends to NYC.

She said this decision was made "to avoid a capital redistributive consumption culture".

"For instance: short-term gains, which we could see taking place in some circles (beneficiaries) in the fishing sector," Busch said.

According to her, Bridgehead instead re-invested its dividends into the growth of the company and the sector.

She added that the dividends which were supposed to be paid by the company are being invested in a seal factory worth N$25 million.

"As a result of this decision the company sacrificed dividends and re-invested into the establishment of the first seal factory to be built in Namibia since independence.

"The factory based at Lüderitz, has a value of N$25 million and it employs 51 staff of whom 90% are young women and men," Busch said.

FIGHT FOR DOLLARS

The infighting in the Yukor and Uukumwe consortiums triggered an investigation into their finances.

The investigation was commissioned by Namcaribe Investments (Pty) Ltd which is one of the five shareholders in the Uukumwe consortium. Namcaribe is owned by "children of the liberation struggle" who studied in Cuba.

Uukumwe was awarded a 20% stake in the joint venture called Yukor Fishing. Namcaribe has an interest in Yukor Fishing through Uukumwe which is 40% owned by the NYC.

Namcaribe, which complained about not benefiting "much from fishing rights and quota allocations' for seven years", asked an entity called Business Review Committee (BRC) to investigate the transactions linked to Uukumwe.

The investigation report said: "It can therefore be concluded that Namcaribe did not benefit from fishing rights and quota allocations during the period under review."

It added that: "During the seven years period Namcaribe received N$880 000 dividends from Uukumwe which is equivalent to N$88 000 received by each individual member of the company".

The consortium was allocated a 75 500 metric tonnes of horse mackerel between 2012 and 2018, the report said. They are also the biggest beneficiaries of the seal quotas.

'NOTHING WRONG'

Olavi Hamutumwa who led the consortiums in question told The Namibian yesterday that there is nothing wrong with directors of a company being paid board fees and a monthly retainer, especially for a company of the magnitude of Yukor.

"Specifically when the directors are not reckless and running the company into the ground. The board fees should also be compared to how much shareholders received," he said.

Swapo politician Amukwiyu confirmed the payments last week but he insisted that they were only made to him because he is a director.

"What report is talking such rubbish? The money I received was in accordance with the company's arrangement as a director representing the company. I did not pay myself money. As directors, we were appointed when the consortium was already established," he told The Namibian last week.

Amukiwyu added: "Shareholders were always paid, but I don't want to ponder on Namcaribe. Those guys have their own issues."

Nanyemba refused to answer questions by The Namibian. "I reserve my comments on your inquiry," he added.

Boois also said he will reserve his comments on the matter.

Xoagub told The Namibian that the claim of more money to the youth should be directed to Uukumwe and not Yukor Fishing.

"My understanding is that Uukumwe shareholders that apparently led the investigation also received director fees from Uukumwe. Hence the claim of more money to the youth should be directed to Uukumwe and not Yukor. The investigation should also reveal how much Yukor has paid over to its shareholders," he said.

Nantanga told The Namibian that he is a director in Yukor, representing the Kumika community. He added that it was strange that Namcaribe investigated how much directors were paid instead of focusing on its interest in Uukumwe.

"The money I received was my money as a director representing a shareholder. What does it have to do with Namcaribe or Uukumwe. These companies should focus on their own affairs and not on other shareholder companies in Yukor," he said.

Questions sent to Lamberth, Nangolo, and Coffee went unanswered.

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