All Namibia’s commercial counsellors recalled

Presidency-based investment board flexes muscles

27 July 2021 | Local News

OGONE TLHAGE and MATHIAS HAUFIKU







WINDHOEK

The Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) is facing resistance over its decision to recall all 12 commercial counsellors, who cost taxpayers N$45 million annually.

Namibian Sun has it on good authority that the counsellors have already received their recall letters, with many due to return to Namibia by the end of next month.

Commercial counsellors are embassy officials responsible for promoting and facilitating trade between Namibia and the countries to which they are posted.

Namibia has commercial counsellors in South Africa, the United States of America, India, Angola, Ethiopia, Egypt, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium and England (currently vacant).

Most of the counsellors’ four-year terms are due to end in June 2023, but they were recalled nonetheless.

Only Henoch Ramakhutla (South Africa) and Diana Tjiposa (Belgium), whose terms end next month, will see out the full run of their contracts.

Government spends, according to official information received by this publication, close to N$4 million monthly to maintain these offices. The cost caters for office and residential rentals, utility services and staff salaries.

It also includes the remuneration for the commercial counsellor as well as allowances for their spouse and children and school fees for the children.

Some of those recalled will revert to the positions they left in the trade ministry, while others will be absorbed into the NIPDB system. Sources also indicated that there are those who will be discarded.

Smokescreen

While cost-cutting is seen as the driving factor for the move, official sources said the recalls are part of a power struggle between the trade ministry and the newly-established investment board.

There are also talks that the recalls are aimed at allowing the posting of new counsellors.

Several sources at the trade ministry described the move as a “recruitment smokescreen”.

“This move is a smokescreen because people want to send their friends abroad. There is nothing that suggests that the money spent on these offices abroad is abnormal because we all know the high cost of living in countries such as France and Switzerland,” one of the officials, who spoke anonymously to this publication, said.

In the dark

Meanwhile, despite it being widely expected that the NIPDB would report to the trade ministry, Namibian Sun is informed that the board reports directly to – and resorts under – the Office of the President.

This arrangement allegedly does not sit well with trade minister Lucia Iipumbu because she does not have authority over its operations. Namibian Sun is told Iipumbu was allegedly not part of the decision to recall the trade diplomats either.

Iipumbu yesterday refused to be drawn into the matter, saying: “If it is [regarding] NIPDB actions and activities, please take that up with them. I have no comment”.

NIPDB CEO Nangula Uaandja confirmed the recalls, but refused to provide more information regarding the future of those involved.

“I can confirm that we have issued the letters, but this is an internal matter that I do not wish to discuss at this point in time,” she said.