'MPs must explain their riches'

Labour minister Utoni Nujoma has lashed out at “political opponents” who allegedly circulated his asset declaration on social media.

01 July 2020 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



Opposition politicians are in agreement that public office-bearers must not only declare their assets, but should also be ready to explain their riches.

This follows labour minister Utoni Nujoma saying in parliament that “unscrupulous” elements in society are maliciously using these declarations against him on social media.

“We have to comply with the declaration, but as I am speaking today, my declaration is on Facebook distributed by political opponents and I would like to be assured that there will be a follow-up to know who did that,” Nujoma said in the National Assembly last week. Nujoma added that it is unfair for members of parliament to quote from these declarations and question members in parliament.



Fear not

The speaker of the National Assembly (NA) Peter Katjavivi urged MPs to comply with the law and declare their assets, reassuring Utoni that what is kept by parliament is under the necessary supervision and control.

“Let me assure you, this is very important. I think what is important is what you are able to declare and according to the law we will keep it in custody and the part for the public will be made available for public scrutiny. Have no fear whatsoever, this is an annual exercise but we are delayed and we need to comply with the law,” Katjavivi said.

Leader of the Landless People's Movement (LPM)Bernadus Swartbooi said it has become cardinal for public office-bearers to not only declare their assets, but to go further and explain how they acquired them, especially in light of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF).

“You need to explain who assisted you in acquiring these assets. You must explain how long it took you to gather these assets and whether it was in an honest and fair manner. Now that they want to bring in NEEEF, we would want to know where people got the money to buy 40% in a private company. We want to know who their business associates are,” Swartbooi said. He added that it is suspicious when public office-bearers cannot handle public scrutiny and hard questions about their assets. You cannot cry about a public declaration which is out in the public. These things must be public so that we explain how we acquired these assets. At this point, assets are only declared; how will he react when he is asked to explain the origin of these assets,” Swartbooi asked.



Limit undue enrichment

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani agreed that the fundamental purpose of an asset declaration is to limit undue enrichment by public officials and insider trading using their offices or the influence they wield.

“Henceforth, it is utterly laughable for a public office holder to attempt to limit scrutiny. What needs to improve is asset declaration to allow for greater transparency.

“If you read the book The Bosasa Billions [How the ANC Sold Its Soul for Braai Packs, Booze and Bagz of Cash by James-Brent Styan and Paul Vecchiatto], you would realise that there is even a need to declare handbags and Rolex watches that people are wearing. We need greater transparency, not a limit on it,” he said.

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