Utoni under fire for tobacco 'facilitation'

29 June 2018 | Government

Local political analysts have expressed concern over lands minister Utoni Nujoma's role in apparently facilitating a cabinet presentation by Chinese investors in the Namibia Oriental Tobacco project.

They raised the issue of Nujoma facilitating the meeting this week, while he is the same person who will decide whether to approve the company's land application in a communal area in the Zambezi Region.

Two sources, who were privy to the tobacco discussions in cabinet, confirmed to Namibian Sun earlier this week that Nujoma had brought in the group of Chinese investors for their presentation.

Repeated calls, from different numbers to Nujoma's cellphone went unanswered yesterday.

Political analyst Frederico Links said it makes no sense that cabinet has become the place to discuss business proposals.

“What are they doing at cabinet in the first place? The whole things smells of people peddling political influence. It just doesn't sound right. For me, it looks once again like political connections are being used to try to secure national resources for private gain,” said Links.

Another political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said Nujoma must explain why he had to play a facilitation role during the cabinet meeting.

“He cannot approve the land application and spearhead the process at the same time. His facilitation role must be scrutinised.

“From the public's perspective there is evidence of conflict of interest,” he said.

Namibia Oriental Tobacco is co-owned by Swapo regional coordinator for Oshikoto, Armas Amukwiyu.

Amukwiyu's application for land was rejected in May 2015 by the Zambezi Communal Land Board.

The fact that Nujoma brought Amukwiyu's project to cabinet also raises questions around Amukwiyu's factional allegiance within Swapo.

During the party's elective congress in November last year, Amukwiyu was Team Swapo's secretary-general candidate, but lost to Team Harambee's Sophia Shaningwa.

According to Kamwanyah it would appear as if Amukwiyu is using his contacts in Team Harambee, as President Geingob's victorious faction was known as, to facilitate the process.

“Anything is possible in politics, but I am not convinced that he is back with the Harambee team. You must remember that as regional coordinator of Swapo he has quite a lot of political influence. And as far as I know there is no bad blood between him and Nujoma,” he said.

Amukwiyu, as well as Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu could not be reached for comment.


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