By Ester Mbathera and Tileni Mongudhi | 21 October 2022
THE minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo says they do not investigate people who no longer work at the ministry, amid concerns that officials are enriching themselves before jumping ship.
Alweendo said this during a media briefing yesterday where he was addressing the alleged corruption in the ministry involving a N$50 million sale of mining rights to a Chinese-owned company by people believed to be relatives of his former technical adviser Rafael (Ralph) Muyamba
Muyamba resigned this month, sparking allegations linking his resignation to bribes and kickbacks. He denied wrongdoing.
There are also allegations that officials and their spouses have been colluding to benefit from oil exploration deals. Corruption allegations levelled against ministry officials often relate to mining exploration licences.
Reports on social media surfaced this month claiming that a mining company belonging to Muyamba’s cousin made N$50 million from a sale of a lithium exploration license. Muyamba was accused of being a key beneficiary of the transaction despite him being an official working in Alweendo’s office.
The lithium exploration licence was sold to Chinese company Xingfeng Investments which made headlines two years ago for trying to construct what would be Namibia’s first lithium mine. It has now commenced with lithium ore mining. Lithium is used in batteries.
The Namibian understands that one of the key beneficiaries from that N$50 million deal is building a mansion in Windhoek.
“It was said that the person who was in my office did get that EPL corruptly. That was the investigation. Unfortunately, when you do an investigation on public servants you can only do so if the person is … in your employment. Unfortunately, Ralph has resigned,” Alweendo said yesterday.
He added that the case was reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The Namibian earlier this week reported that Alweendo’s ex-adviser, Muyamba. confirmed that Orange River Mining the company, which sold the EPL to Xingfeng, belongs to his cousin.
The law does not prohibit relatives of ministry officials from holding interests in mineral licences or in companies holding mineral licences. But questions are being asked whether such relatives do receive favourable treatment.
It only prohibits spouses.
“I am not worried that people are saying bad things about me. It is only with time they will realise that I have not done anything wrong. If my cousin is benefiting and earning an income out of that then what else can I do? He is my cousin,” said Muyunda.
Aweendo yesterday said that he is still investigating whether the EPL was awarded corruptly. He explained that the EPL first belonged to an entity called Karlowa Mineral Resources and it expired.
The law makes allowance for an EPL to be renewed only once after its initial three years have expired. For this reason, the ministry decided to not renew Karlowa’s licence, since their six years had lapsed, and decided to grant it to Orange River Mining, an entity belonging to his assistant’s cousin.
Orange River then sold the licence to Xingfeng for N$50 million after its first transaction with another entity did not materialise.
Alweendo denied any involvement or being a recipient of money or proceeds of the transaction and said he has insisted that things be done by the book at the ministry. He confirmed that officials from his ministry are not trusted by the public and are perceived to be corrupt.
It is for that reason he has introduced a number of reforms since 2019: Shortening the application and waiting period from 12 months to six, as well as introducing an online application process which limits human interaction.
He also decentralised the decision-making powers so that the different commissioners no longer make decisions alone but that a committee sits and decides before a recommendation is sent to the minister. In the past the commissioners made decisions without input from others.
Alweendo said he will also introduce a whistleblower box at the ministry to allow the public to report corrupt or unethical officials. He said only he will have access to the box.