Swapo HQ 'too big a risk'

A N$730-million gamble in uncertain times

27 May 2019 | Business

The requirements of the Swapo headquarters tender were too big a financial risk for local contractors in the current economic environment, says Bärbel Kirchner, the consulting general manager of the Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF).

According to Kirchner, the first payments would have been delayed and the contractor would have had limited control over interest claims for late payments or non-payment.

“This is not a risk that local companies under the current economic conditions can take, especially as they are already struggling financially. It might be wise to find ways to withdraw this tender award,” said Kirchner.

The Namibian last week reported that the N$730 million contract for renovating the party's headquarters in Windhoek had been awarded to Unik Construction Engineering.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein on Thursday told the media that the ruling party should not be blamed for awarding the tender to a Chinese company.

According to Schlettwein the awarding process was above board but no Namibian company had put in a bid for the tender.

”It is not Swapo who gave to the tender to a Chinese company. Namibians didn't bid and that is why the party awarded it to a foreign company, which is, by the way, in a joint venture with a local company,” he said.

However, political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said it is not enough for Swapo, tasked with the development of Namibia and its people, to just shrug and say no Namibian bid had been received.

According to him, Swapo as the ruling party has a responsibility to reach out to local companies if they do not meet the requirements.

“As a ruling party, Swapo has a huge responsibility to build local businesses. It is not a good picture for a government that is spearheading Namibian development to give such a shallow excuse. Swapo has a responsibility to look at the requirements to see whether it is accessible for local businesses,” he said.

He also believes that Swapo as the ruling party must be a champion of self-reliance instead of promoting dependence.

“Giving a tender to a foreign company is a motion of no confidence in self-reliance. If the Swapo Party as a ruling party cannot be there for locals, who is going to be there for Namibians?

“That is why it was wrong for the president to buy a bed from China and it's wrong for the ruling party to prioritise foreign companies, no matter what the discount,” he said.

JEMIMA BEUKES