By Tileni Mongudhi and Mathias Haufiku | 3 June 2020
GOVERNMENT ministers blocked plans by the state-owned diamond company Namdia to extend the contract of their middleman and global diamantaire Neil Haddock.
The Namibian understands Namdia chief executive officer Kennedy Hamutenya wanted to extend Haddock’s contract, but this was blocked by minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo.
The former De Beers dealer has since 2016 been a frequent flyer between Dubai and Windhoek to facilitate the sale of Namdia’s diamonds.
The move to stop the extension of Haddock’s contract started late last year as part of Alweendo’s efforts to overhaul Namdia.
The diamond parastatal has faced allegations of being a hotbed for corruption and lacking transparency in how it sells one of the country’s priced minerals.
Namdia, tasked to sell diamonds worth over an estimated N$2,1 billion per year, has repeatedly faced allegations of selling Namibian diamonds below market value to Dubai companies.
Upon Haddock’s appointment in 2016, Namdia told the public he will only serve for three years.
The company vowed at the time that Namibians will be groomed to take over once Haddock’s term comes to an end. This has not happened.
Alweendo confirmed to The Namibian last month his decision to reject a Namdia proposal to extend Haddock’s relationship with the public diamond firm.
“I can confirm that I opposed the extension. Please contact the public enterprises minister, under whom Namdia now falls, for further details on this matter,” he said.
He said he gave Namdia permission to keep Haddock on for a further six months when his contract lapsed in September 2019.
Alweendo said he was disappointed that Namdia did not put measures in place to ensure the transfer of skills for Namibians to take over once Haddock’s contract expired.
Minister of public enterprises Leon Jooste concurred with Alweendo on the decision to stop Namdia from extending Haddock’s contract.
“I discussed the matter with Alweendo at the time and I have no reason to deviate from the agreed position. I have full confidence in the integrity and ability of the new board to deal with this matter in the best interests of Namdia,” he told The Namibian last week.
Jooste said he is interested in corporate governance-related matters at Namdia.
He said he would talk to the board to ensure an appropriate risk management policy with adequate checks and balances is in place to mitigate any commercial and operational risks.
Haddock owns Global Diamond Tenders, a company that reveals on its website that he is “an independent valuer/adviser to the governments of Namibia and Angola”.
Mail and Guardian reported six years ago the Zimbabwean government was not happy with his role in the country’s sale of diamonds to Dubai.
Haddock was allegedly paid US$580 000 (N$8,2 million) in consultancy fees for handling Zimbabwe’s diamond auction in Dubai.
Andries Eiseb is set to replace Haddock.
Eiseb, a former unionist with the Mineworkers Union of Namibia, is employed as the key accounts manager at Namdia.
He also runs his private diamond valuation firm, Global Diamond Valuators Namibia, where he serves as the executive chairman.
His company, until 2019, was the official Government Diamond Valuator. Services included the valuation of Namdeb’s entire production.
The five-year valuation job valued at around N$300 million has since been awarded to an opaque company Gem Diamonds Namibia, co-owned by Fishcor’s finance manager Paulus Ngalangi.
The Namibian understands that the government insisted that Haddock’s position be advertised instead of hand picking a candidate, contrary to how it was done under former mines minister Obed Kandjoze’s controversial tenure.
Responding to The Namibian’s questions two weeks ago, Hamutenya said the board and management agreed to not renew the contract with Haddock in March 2020. This was after his six months extension granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy expired.
Senior government officials told The Namibian Hamutenya lobbied for Haddock to stay on.
Hamutenya did not say why he wanted Haddock to stay on, but rather indicated that Eiseb was recruited to ensure Namdia reduces its reliance on Haddock.
Eiseb has over 30 years’ experience in the diamond industry, which include 11 years at the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC), and 19 years as a government diamond valuator.
Asked whether any Namibian has been upskilled to replace Haddock, Hamutenya said: “Namdia undertook an extensive recruitment process and hired a qualified and experienced Namibian key accounts manager in January 2020 to fulfil the obligations previously carried out by the sales consultant.”
During his tenure at Namdia, Hamutenya said Haddock developed the Namdia assortment; provided and disseminated timely market intelligence; assisted in securing suitable clients for Namdia; as well as conducting successful marketing and sales transactions.
He said Eiseb was appointed to strengthen this business portion of Namdia and perform the functions once conducted by Haddock.
Haddock and Eiseb have past business ties in the diamond industry.
Haddock provided consultation services to Eiseb’s private diamond firm.
Hamutenya said Haddock merely advised the government’s diamond valuators mostly on large stone exceptionals and fancy coloured stones, where there is a higher concentration of value – not as an employee.
* This story was produced by The Namibian’s investigative unit and the Advancement of Journalism Centre.