By Shinovene Immanuel | 01 April 2019
State House spokesperson Alfredo Hengari issued a four-page statement on Thursday night to partly refute two stories published by The Namibian two weeks ago on how the government paid N$70 million for renovations to Nujoma’s house.
That statement was, however, dominated with attacks on Nujoma’s allies, and a history lesson on how Geingob served the former president in various top positions, including being Namibia’s first prime minister.
“Geingob served the founding president in all these designations well before the advent of the new so-called “loyalists”, and “sycophants,” Hengari said, adding that Geingob has always been Nujoma’s “bodyguard”.
“This was at a time when the founding father did not have a coterie of bodyguards,” the spokesperson said.
Nujoma’s inner circle did not accept these comments.
The founding president’s personal assistant, John Nauta, declined to comment on the statement.
However, Nujoma’s allies started complaining to The Namibian on Friday – a few hours after the statement was issued – that Geingob did not address allegations that Nujoma benefited doubly by accepting a N$70 million house and a cash pay-out.
Coincidentally, Hengari issued an updated statement on Friday night, adding two sentences which said: “To say that the founding president is double-dipping when he turned down an offer of this nature [state-funded 90th birthday] is utterly dishonest”.–
“It is not in the character of the founding president,” he added.
Nujoma’s associates were still not impressed with that addition, claiming that State House failed to address the matter.
“Why can he not just come clean? Now he is attacking people. He is the only one with authority to clear up this issue,” a person from Nujoma’s team said.
Another Nujoma ally said: “If Nujoma was paid illegally, it’s wrong. He should be told respectfully to pay back the money”.
For years, talks of a fallout between the two camps has been the subject of a whisper in political circles, but last week’s presidential statement has, for the first time, taken the confrontation into the public space.
This is not the first time that Geingob has referred to Nujoma’s allies as sycophants.
In his doctoral thesis entitled ‘State Formation in Namibia: Promoting Democracy and Good Governance’ (2003), Geingob warned about “sycophants, who surround the president, [and] are interested in their survival”.
STATE HOUSE OFFER
Despite his public onslaught, Hengari denied that there is a clash between Geingob and Nujoma’s camp.
“The issue of the ‘Nujoma-Geingob camps and supporters’ is a figment of the imagination of those few remnants whose minds and emotions are still languishing in the aftermath of their defeat at the 2017 Swapo party congress,” he stated.
Hengari said what these “misinformed individuals” fail to understand is that Geingob and the late former prime minister Theo-Ben Gurirab defended Nujoma in parliament on the issue of spies and dungeons.
He added that the individuals who want to cause division and conflict within Swapo have a chronic lack of reasoning skills.
Hengari did not mention names, but said they “were the same individuals who claimed that the presidency had forgotten about the founding father by not providing him with accommodation, saying that Sam Nujoma is in the streets”.
According to him, Geingob visited Nujoma in hospital when he was informed that the former president did not have a place to stay in 2016 since his house was demolished to make way for a new home.
Hengari said Geingob offered the former president a house at State House, a proposal that was discussed with Nujoma’s son, Utoni.
The offer was accepted, but Nujoma had already accepted temporary accommodation from businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, who had offered him her N$8 million house in Klein Windhoek.
“This would have no financial implications, except water, electricity and telephone usage. It came as a surprise when the Presidency was invoiced N$3,7 million by Namundjebo-Tilahun for the “rental” of the founding father,” Hengari said, adding that the Presidency rejected this invoice.
Namundjebo-Tilahun declined to comment.
There has been a fierce battle in Swapo on who has Nujoma’s ears, especially after 2015 when Geingob dumped his former friends Desmond Amunyela, Vaino Nghipondoka and Swapo’s regional coordinator in the Oshikoto region, Armas Amukwiyu.
The three remained loyal to Nujoma after they fell out of favour with Geingob. The trio has been key in organising Nujoma’s annual birthday celebration for years.
Last week, the government, through State House, offered to fund Nujoma’s 90th birthday this year set for 12 May, but the former head of state refused the offer, Hengari said.
“The founding president indicated that in light of the prevailing economic conditions and the drought, it would be best not to spend government resources on a birthday celebration. It is a demonstration of the duty of care the founding president has for the Namibian people,” he noted.
Sources said Nujoma’s close allies believe that the government’s proposal to fund his birthday could be a trap to portray him as greedy, especially when there is a public outcry over his upgraded house.
Hengari yesterday declined to comment on this allegation.
Nujoma has since 2015 refused state-funded birthday celebrations offered by Geingob’s administration, opting for an event organised by business people.
He, however, allowed the state to upgrade his house.
Hengari said Nujoma’s housing upgrade cost N$43 million.
“For the Presidency, the matter of upgrades and renovations of the house of the founding president ought to be closed,” he added.
The Namibian understands that Geingob’s officials told him that the amount spent on the house was N$70 million.