By Tileni Mongudhi and Mathias Haufiku | 15 May 2020
Walvis Bay mayor Immanuel Wilfried and his son rented industrial land from a government enterprise which Wilfried chaired, it has emerged.
On top of this, there are allegations that the mayor paid paltry sums for the land compared to previous tenants.
The Namibian has established, from Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) documents, that Wilfried and his son Albertus Shitatu (28) each have a 25% stake in WiWW Trading Enterprises, which signed the lease on 8 August 2018.
As mayor, Wilfried also chairs the council-owned Walvis Bay Export Processing Zone Management Company (EPZMC), which runs the industrial park at Walvis Bay where the property in question is situated.
Walvis Bay council officials told The Namibian that WiWW Trading operated from the 480 square metre Unit 15 in the Gateway Industrial Park.
They claim the rent was set at N$6 000 a month, yet the previous tenants paid more than N$18 000 a month.
Shitatu last month disputed the claim, saying all tenants had their rent reduced because of the slow economic climate.
He dismissed claims of a conflict of interest.
“My father has no conflict of interest because when the first contract was approved, none of us were involved,” he said.
The Namibian has seen the agreement, which was signed by Wilfried on behalf of the council.
Contacted for comment, Wilfried said he joined WiWW Trading well after the agreement was signed and that he has done nothing improper.
“All the records are available for viewing if you don’t believe me,” he said.
The company’s registration documents show he joined on 15 March 2018 – about five months before he signed the controversial lease agreement.
WIWW Trading traded from Unit 9 in the industrial park in 2017, but moved to the larger Unit 15 in August 2018.
The move also coincided with Wilfried and his son’s acquisition of a combined 50% stake in the entity.
The government, through the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade, created the EPZMC in terms of the EPZ Act with the responsibility of managing and promoting the export processing zone at Walvis Bay.
The EPZ law was abolished in 2019 and was supposed to be replaced by a special economic zone legislation, which is yet to materialise.
The lease agreement shows the monthly rent for the first year was set at N$6 000, N$6 450 in the second year, N$8 000 in the third year, N$12 000 in year four, and N$18 000 in the fifth year.
Shitatu told The Namibian his company had revoked the lease agreement and found alternative business premises. He refused to provide further details.
Approached for comment, EPZMC general manager Jan Kruger disputed allegations that the mayor was conflicted.
Kruger said leases are not considered at board level, but rather administratively.
“According to the records submitted to us by WiWW at the time they applied to lease the unit in October 2017, the shareholder of the entity was a certain Waldron Dexter Theron. The lease was signed with him and commenced on 1 November 2017,” he said.
Theron, who is the majority shareholder in WiWW, declined to comment.
When The Namibian presented Kruger with evidence that WiWW Trading’s lease agreement for Unit 15 was signed by Wilfried, he said he had been informed that the whole matter of WiWW is currently under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
“As such, I would be required to make certain sworn statements,” he said.
“This means the matter is sub judice and that I am not at liberty to discuss it with third parties,” he said.
Shitatu is not new to controversy. In 2016 a company owned by his father was used to provide a quotation for work on a municipal vehicle assigned to the mayor.
Nampa reported at the time that work on the vehicle was carried out by a third party not listed in the quotation.
Shitatu admitted to Nampa that he used an unnamed friend to work on the Mercedes Benz sedan and that the quotation for the council was submitted by Onakuziwa Enterprises, a company owned by his father.
Nampa reported in 2017 that, according to a quotation submitted to the ACC, Shitatu charged the council N$11 707 for “smash-and-grab tinting, work on the bonnet, fog lights, door strips and boot bumper”.
Wilfried, who uses the vehicle for his official duties, denied involvement in the deal, saying his son did not consult him about it.
The mayor, who claimed he was out of the country when the work was done, said he instructed his secretary, Lelanie Coetzee, to ensure work on the car was done.