By Shinovene Immanuel | 8 December 2016
FORMER President Sam Nujoma asked President Hage Geingob about the status of the Angola-Namibia oil transaction, four months before it was allowed to expire.
Nujoma’s intervention came after an Angolan diplomat asked Namibia’s first President to support the N$4 billion a year deal, which could have benefited Namibian consumers and a group of businessmen.
The Namibian reported two weeks ago that Namibia’s plan to buy crude oil from Angola was stopped by a scramble among politically-connected Namibian businessmen who wanted a cut from the deal.
The plan was to buy cheaper crude oil from Angola’s state-owned oil company, Sonangol, and refine it, using a third party in Dubai through a Russian-owned trading partner, Lukoil.
It would then be imported into Namibia through the country’s energy parastatal, Namcor. Lukoil is one of Russia’s largest oil companies. The three-year agreement, which expired in June this year, started moving slowly last year.
The slow progress allegedly forced Angola’s ambassador to Namibia, Manuel Alexandre Duarte Rodrigues, to seek Nujoma’s support.
Efforts to get comment from Rodrigues and John Nauta, personal assistant to Nujoma, were unsuccessful this week. Nauta was unreachable, while the embassy said Rodrigues was out of the country, and asked for the questions to be emailed to the embassy.
Four sources confirmed that Rodrigues drove to Nujoma’s farm at Etunda, outside Otavi, on 13 May 2016.
This was a day before Nujoma’s 87th birthday party, which Geingob was invited to, but did not attend.
Since the President failed to pitch up, the ambassador allegedly convinced Nujoma to contact Geingob about the oil deal. Nujoma, sources said, was convinced that the proposed oil transaction was good for the two countries.
Insiders said Nujoma called Geingob a day after his birthday to tell him the ambassador had contacted him regarding the oil contract.
Geingob allegedly picked up Nujoma’s call in the presence of several politicians and youth leaders, who later leaked what passed during the conversation.
Some say Geingob told his former boss that he would take it up with the ambassador, which he allegedly never did, while others claim the President said the Angolan diplomat should use the correct state channels.
Nujoma was later briefed by his officials and presidential affairs minister Frans Kapofi about the exact details of the deal.
The Presidency was allegedly concerned about the ambassador’s direct approach to Nujoma, disregarding normal protocols, and that certain businessmen had hijacked the deal, which could make the oil expensive.
The Namibian understands that Nujoma was told that certain foreign diplomats were also set to benefit from the deal. This reportedly convinced him to distance himself from the transaction. The Namibian businessmen who stood to benefit from the deal included Desmond Amunyela, Vaino Nghipondoka and Swapo politician Armas Amukwiyu – all friends or former friends of Geingob. The three attended Nujoma’s birthday.
Sources accused Geingob’s administration of blocking the three businessmen in order to lay down a red carpet for “lone-wolf” operator Knowledge Katti to insert himself in the transaction. Katti, a friend of energy minister Obeth Kandjoze, appears to be leading the race to emerge as a local beneficiary if the oil agreement is renegotiated.
The Namibian is told that Geingob was reluctant to talk about the planned deal with Nujoma, especially because of the former leader’s closeness to Amunyela’s group – which organised Nujoma’s 87th birthday party. Insiders said Geingob’s camp suspected Amunyela’s group of having swayed Nujoma to contact Geingob about the deal.
Amunyela and Geingob have been comrades for years, even at the time when the latter was in the political wilderness. However, the businessman and Geingob are alleged to have had a personal fallout at the end of 2014, three months before Geingob became President.
“BACKSTABBING AND JEALOUSY”
Amunyela told The Namibian this week that “we have never sought any form of business assistance from the founding (President), or even the current President”.
He said they are available to assist and serve Nujoma when required.
“Nujoma has given us all we need to rely on ourselves. It’s our time to do things for him,” he said. “If your articles are correct about what halted this good deal for Namibia, then I’m very shocked that people can become so myopic, nasty and hateful to deny others opportunities on the basis of rumour-mongering, gossip, back-stabbing and jealousy,” Amunyela said.
He said their rivals are still young. “Surely, when their time runs out, we will still be around to pursue business opportunities for the benefit of our great Namibia. The struggle continues.”
“It beats my logic how we go around the world looking for investments, while we frustrate those at home. Just look at the desalination plant, Xaris, Air Namibia duty-free, Kudu, the tobacco project, the airport lounge and so on,” he added.
Presidential affairs minister Frans Kapofi said he was not aware of the talk between Nujoma and Geingob.
“If the Founding President had brought a matter to the attention of the President, which matter was brought to his attention by a diplomat accredited to Namibia, it means the Founding President did his civic duty, and should be commended,” he said.
Kapofi said the correct forum for the ambassador to raise the matter would have been through the international relations ministry, which would have facilitated interactions with the relevant Namibian authorities.