By Shinovene Immanuel | 27 March 2019
THE government spent N$43 million upgrading former president Sam Nujoma’s private house, his assistant says.
Nujoma’s personal assistant, John Nauta, claimed that this total spending was a reduction from the initial N$64 million contract signed with a Chinese company four years ago.
Cabinet documents reviewed by The Namibian show that the cost of renovations to Nujoma’s house, on the outskirts of Windhoek along the Hosea Kutako International Airport road, increased from N$11 million in 2013 to N$34 million in 2014. That amount almost doubled to N$64 million in 2015.
Nauta was reacting to an article published in The Namibian last week on how the former president benefited from the best of both worlds.
The Namibian reported that the state splashed out N$70 million on Nujoma’s retirement house, although he had opted for a cash payout when he retired in 2005.
A source familiar with the matter insisted that the story was factual.
Nauta was, however, irked by the story, and dismissed this figure, saying the actual amount is N$43 million.
Documents obtained from sources in the transport ministry show that a Chinese company called China Jiangxi International signed a N$64 million contract with the government in June 2015 to upgrade Nujoma’s house.
Former works permanent secretary Peter Mwatile represented the government. Marley Tjitjo architects and Jordaan Oosthuysen Nangolo were appointed as architects and quantity surveyors, respectively.
This was four months after president Hage Geingob assumed office. It is unclear whether he was consulted on the finalisation of this transaction. Nujoma’s allies claim Geingob was aware of the deal since he was the prime minister when the discussion on the upgrades was started in 2013.
Nauta said the Chinese company was the cheapest bidder, adding that the cost was reduced because they removed the proposal to add a road and interlocks to the house.
There was a plan to build houses for security officials, and a boundary wall around the house.
Nujoma’s right-hand-man did not provide proof that only N$43 million was spent, but he sent The Namibian a personal statement compiled by Marley Tjitjo Architects.
That statement shows that the state spent N$43 million on the upgrades, which include the main living quarters, foyer, reception, private lounge, dining room, servants room, study room, master bedroom, indoor and outdoor entertainment facilities, as well as three other bedrooms.
Other features include four garages for eight cars, water tanks, an electricity generator, security cameras and an electric fence.
Nauta denied that there is an underground facility. “There is no bunker,” he stated.
Naute said he was shocked to read that Nujoma received a cash payment since the allegations are “meant only to raise public anger against the founding president as well as to tarnish Nujoma’s legacy, and to portray him as greedy and corrupt”.
“Payment in cash was never considered an option as there seems to be no provision in the law. Nujoma’s responses to Cabinet all along was to renovate his existing plot, and such renovation was carried out immediately after he stepped down,” he said.
Nauta added: “All financial transactions were examined at the time the founding president stepped down up to date, and there is nothing that indicates double payment or benefits for cash on housing at the same time”.
Nauta, however, admitted that the government paid for upgrades at Nujoma’s house after he had stepped down in 2005.
He said State House kept calling them to finish up their house upgrading budget.
Ndeutala Angolo-Amutenya, who served as permanent secretary in the Office of the President until 2012, said Nujoma was not paid cash after he retired.
DEEP, DARK SECRET
Documents show that former transport minister Erkki Nghimtina submitted a proposal to Cabinet on 29 October 2014, seeking approval to appoint a company that would upgrade Nujoma’s house.
This was about two months before national elections in Namibia.
Nghimtina’s submission said his request was a follow-up to a Cabinet decision made on 16 October 2013 after discussions of significant renovations at Nujoma’s house. The cost estimate at the time was N$11 million, State House documents show.
This amount doubled the following year.
Nghimtina’s 2014 Cabinet submission said “the new construction and upgrading to the founding father’s residence project is estimated to cost N$33,88 million”.
That amount nearly doubled to N$64 million in 2015.
The construction of Nujoma’s house was done in the dark, with government agencies such as the National Intelligence Agency pushing for secrecy around the deal four years ago.
“All the information, documents and drawings relating to the project shall be considered classified, and therefore shall not be subject to disclosure and scrutiny,” Nghimtina’s Cabinet submission said about the agreement for secrecy.
The lack of transparency on how much the state was paying for Nujoma’s house is only coming out now when some officials from Geingob’s administration are questioning the transaction, and calling for an investigation to determine how the cost of the project increased sixfold in two years.
This transaction has divided opinions among Geingob and Nujoma supporters.
Nujoma’s close allies are accusing Geingob’s camp of using the former president’s name when it suits them.
Geingob’s camp, however, believes that a lot of palms appear to have been greased in this transaction, and that Nujoma should pay back the money he received when he retired to avoid having the same situation for future presidents when they retire.
Nujoma’s supporters believe that it is all political.
They claim that Nujoma’s decision not to back Geingob at the 2017 Swapo elective congress is backfiring, and he is being “victimised”.
Geingob won big at that congress, controlling all the critical organs of the party.