Fallout over Dubai Expo

Cabinet reshuffles head of delegation for global forum

21 May 2021 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK

Cabinet has elected not to renew the contract of Namibia’s commissioner-general for the Dubai Expo Simon Maruta, with Namibia Investment Promotion Development Board (NIPDB) CEO Nangula Uaandja roped in as his replacement.

This was confirmed by cabinet secretary George Simataa on Wednesday.

The 182-day event kicks off in October this year and ends in March 2022.

Maruta was informed of Cabinet’s decision four months before the global trade showpiece Dubai Expo kicks off.

The outgoing commissioner-general was appointed by Cabinet in 2019 to spearhead Namibia’s preparation for the expo, where Namibia aims to lure investors to pump resources into areas such as agriculture, mining, tourism, banking, health, manufacturing, housing, renewable energy and transport.

Namibian Sun understands Maruta is irked by the manner in which he was ushered out of the cushy role, claiming that he was not consulted in any way regarding ending his tenure.

His sympathisers feel Cabinet should have extended his term until the end of the expo, while others believe thrusting Uaandja into the role – given the overall mandate of NIPDB – was the right call.

The expo was due to take place in October 2020 but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic which limited the movement of goods and people globally.

An irate Maruta this week accused Uaandja of spearheading the charge to oust him.

“She (Uaandja) is hell-bent, she wants to take over and that she is why she has sneaked over a resolution in Cabinet to allow her to take over. My understanding is that she has submitted to take over the Expo as commissioner-general,” he told this publication on Wednesday.

Maruta will serve until the end of June.

“I will go after the end of June. I have no beef about it, it is just the way they have handled this. I was not even approached. I just heard about it. She already informed the international community that she will be one that will be in charge of this,” he said.

The Expo will start from October 2021 until 31 March 2022.

Controversy

Namibian Sun this week reported how two senior officials from NIPDB travelled to Dubai earlier this month for the International Participants Meeting (IPM) despite not being accredited.

NIPDB at the time said Margaret Gustavo and Tunga Mboti went to Dubai to undertake a familiarisation visit which happened to coincide with the meeting.

Close to 400 delegates from the 190 participating countries assembled for the sixth IPM at the Dubai Exhibition Centre ahead of the expo.

All non-essential officials were requested to follow proceedings from their home countries, while country heads of the expo received accreditation to travel and attend in-person.

According to Maruta, prior to his departure to Dubai, NIPDB had approached him wanting to be part of the delegation to attend the meeting.

“Before I went [to Dubai] they came to me and said they want to come but I said I spoke to the organisers in Dubai who were very clear right from the beginning that they will just allow two people per country because of the Covid-19,” he said.

Uaandja’s understanding, Maruta said, “is that this is just for foreign direct investment but it is not the case.”

“The Expo must showcase what Namibia can offer to the world and what the world can offer to Namibia,” he said.

He added: “The commissioner-general and the team must go and stay in Dubai for ten months – the Expo is for six months but the decommissioning and the preparations will take it up to about ten months. So, I am not sure that she has put up the NIPB, how she will be able to manage the board or whether she will abandon the board then go and stay in Dubai.”

Uaandja did not respond to written questions sent to her on Wednesday.