“I am not here to use my office to advance other interests other than that expected of me by the President. If I was looking for advancing my personal interests I should have stayed in the private sector.”
These were the words of Presidential advisor on Constitutional Affairs and Private Sector Interface Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi while responding to claims linking her to Switzerland energy company, Vitol SA.
The Swiss firm wants to lease the public-owned oil storage facility at Walvis Bay.
She says she has no relationship with Vitol other than the fact that “I met them as I did with many other potential investors who were interested in Namibia.”
Zaamwani-Kamwi’s has featured prominently in the Vitol debate in Namibia; well-placed sources who were part of a high-level presidential Namibian delegation to the United States of America in September 2016 say she was instrumental in introducing ministers accompanying President Hage Geingob at the time to US-based investors, Vitol included.
Government held a number of investment promotions events in the USA on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly at the time.
“In the United States, and as part of these promotional activities, the Namibian Government organized an investment promotion seminar as a precursor to the highly successful Invest in Namibia International Conference, held in November 2016. The Namibian Embassy in Washington contracted an agency to assist. It was during the preparations of the seminar and the conference that I met Tess Serranti whose firm was formally contracted by the Namibian Embassy to assist with the marketing and promotion of the event. Tess invited a number of USA based business people with interest in Namibia to attend the seminar. Vitol Energy was one such company,” Zaamwani-Kamwi said when approached this week.
Asked what the nature of her relationship is with Vitol and the reason behind introducing well-known fixer Tess Serranti from African Continental Holdings to ministers, Zaamwani-Kamwi said: “Prior to the Seminar referred to earlier, we organized several B2B meetings with sector Ministers.”
“Investors were given an opportunity to meet with Ministers and ask them detail sectoral questions they may have after which they attended the Seminar, which was addressed by His Excellency the President. Some of the investors were asking for appointments to see His Excellency the President but we advised them to see the Ministers first. It was against this background that I was introducing them to the Ministers,” she said.
She said she was interacting with Vitol and all other investors as the Advisor on Private Sector Interface.
“I should emphasize that my interest was and remains that of supporting His Excellency the President in promoting Namibia as an attractive investment destination. Moreover I have to ensure that our systems and processes are responsive to the needs of investors, both local and international,” she said.
“I would and as I should in line with my duties also attend certain meetings to make sure that if there was a need for follow-up, we did provide the necessary information,” Zaamwani-Kamwi said.
According to her, the inclusion of Presidential Advisers in official trips is dictated by the agenda of meetings to be conducted during the visit.
“The President has made it clear that we need to optimize on his travels and as a result, there are always side meetings organized to promote Namibia as an investment destination. The role of the accompanying Adviser (or Advisers) is to along side other officials, organize meetings, coordinate and interact with interested investors and provide professional support to His Excellency.”
She said “the private capacity that you want to highlight does not exist within the context of my role of supporting His Excellency the President in promoting Namibia as an investment destination.”
“Within the scope of my role and duties as Private Sector Interface, I have dealt with existing and interested investors both locally and internationally. Vitol is not an exception. His Excellency the President is aware that we meet several investors here locally or internationally when we travel with him. The question that deserve asking: how do we promote investment into the country if we don’t meet potential investors? I can assure that there has never been a time when there was a need for special sanction for my official dealings with Vitol,” she explained.
The former Namdeb boss further explained: “If a request from an investor to meet with the President arises, which is normal practice, we clear it with the President. If Ministers and senior government officials don’t meet investors, or refer them to line-ministries, the challenges of unemployment and poverty eradication will never be dealt with. It is routine for Bill Gates or any other investor to meet government officials. It should be obvious for us here as well.”
Regarding Serranti, she had this to say.
“I do not know Tess well at all other than my interaction with her at a professional level when she assisted us in organizing the said seminar. I met Tess twice in Namibia when she came here for the Invest in Namibia 2016 and during another visit in 2017 when she visited Namibia to follow up on as she put it “her clients interests” in Namibia.”
She also rubbished claims that she shares some business interests with Serranti.
“I state categorically that such claims are false, malicious and baseless. I challenge those making such cowardly and malicious allegations to come forward with credible evidence proving that I have any personal interest in Vitol.
I reserve my right to defend my name should those with ill intentions to cause confusion and mistrust continue to make such malicious allegations,” a defensive Zaamwani-Kamwi said.
Asked whether she is aware that Serranti is alleged to be advancing Vitol’s business interests in Namibia, specifically the Oil Storage Facility, Zaamwani-Kamwi said “I am aware that part of the work Tess Serranti does involves providing consulting services a number of clients.”
“I believe that she was also a consultant to Vitol, but I am not exactly aware what area of their business is she consulting on.”