Mystery surrounds two land deals in Okahandja in which over 4 400 hectares were sold to a businessman below market price while, in another transaction, 70 hectares were donated to a Chinese charity to build a school, which is linked to a known Swapo benefactor who is the son-in-law of former President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
The Patriot can reveal that Orban Investments 288, a Windhoek-based company that plans to build a 200-room lodge outside Okahandja, got the nod to buy 4 458ha of land in Okahandja for N$10 million and despite the low selling price. Information has also surfaced that the company already holds title deeds although it has not yet paid the full purchase price to the council.
The council also donated 70ha to Chinese-owned Amitofo Care Centre to set up a school.
The centre’s board is chaired by Heinrich ‘Swapo’ Ndume, who is married to Pohamba’s daughter. Former first lady, Penehupifo Pohamba, is the patron of the school.
These revelations are all but part of a long trail of dubious land transactions that have been taking place in Okahandja in recent years, which have prompted government conducting probes into the land sales to well-connected individuals while the masses continue to pay artificial land prices.
Incumbent Okahandja mayor, Johannes Hindjou, said his council has little knowledge about the two land deals because they were done before his time.
The Chinese connection
Chinese invasion in Namibia has been escalating in recent years, with many Chinese companies headhunting well-connected locals to ensure ease of doing business in the country.
Questions are being asked as to why the council donated about 70ha to a Chinese firm, while such privileges are hardly extended to locals.
Hindjou confirmed the donation, even though it was made by his predecessors, but questioned the rationale behind the move.
The Amitofo Care Centre (ACC), which is located on the Okahandja-Hochfeld road, was founded and directed by a Buddhist clergy from the East with an aspiration and mission to directly rear and care for orphans of Africa within the humanitarian and educational umbrella. The main principles of ACC are based on local African culture, Chinese culture and Buddhist philosophy, which are given to the orphans in need.
The centre comprises a Buddhist temple, hostels and classrooms.
On August 2010, the council’s CEO Niita Alugodhi wrote to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development at the time, Jerry Ekandjo, seeking permission to sell 4 458 hectares to Orban Investments for N$10 million.
Calculations show that the company paid N$4.45 per square metre.
Council documents indicate that Orban Investments wants to develop a project consisting of 200 plots of two to 10ha that will be sold as unimproved serviced plots.
It also wants to service 500 erven measuring 300-500 square metres each to build dwellings that would be sold as plot and plan.
Furthermore, Orban plans to construct a camping area and 60 self-catering units measuring 70-150 square metres each.
Orban says it will also develop a 200 bedroom lodge with a club-house that will be operated as a spa.
An 18-hole golf course with a clubhouse, function hall and conference facilities, squash court and other sports or recreational facilities is also planned.
“The purchase price shall be the sum of N$10 million plus re-transfer of five serviced plots of 10 hectares each to the municipal council. The municipal council shall receive from Orban Investment 288 an additional N$60 per square metre for any portion of [property transferred by Orban Investment 288 to a third party,” reads the sale agreement.
On 23 May 2012, Johan Venter, Director of Orban Investments, wrote to inform the council that his company was approached by a prospective purchaser, who wished to purchase 100ha of the 4 458ha.
Venter said the prospective purchaser wanted to develop the portion and was willing to take over the responsibility to pay the N$60 per square metre to the municipality on transfer of developed portions to a third party.
“We have been advised a condition to safeguard the payment of the N$60 per square metre to the municipality, can be registered against the title deed of the portion our purchaser wishes to purchase,” he said.
On the same day, the council’s acting CEO at the time, Ripanda Meroro, responded positively.
“We wish to advise that the Municipal Council of Okahandja has no objection to the transfer of a portion of the property to be purchased by Orban Investments (Pty) Ltd to the third party, provided that a condition be registered in the title deed to safeguard the payment of N$60 per square metre to the Municipal Council,” said Meroro.
Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development on 14 April 2011 approved the sale of a portion of Okahandja Townlands No 277 by way of private treaty in a letter signed by then permanent secretary, Erastus Negonga.
Although Hindjou refused to delve deeper into the matter due to an ongoing ministerial probe on the matter, he said he also wants to know how the company got the title deed without paying for the land.
In a letter addressed to Okahandja’s CEO on 23 January 2017, Abe Malherbe from Dr Weder, Kauta and Hoveka, who is acting on behalf of Orban Investments, the company said it has procured the required funds for the property.
“Our client has procured the N$10 million, being the purchase amount payable upon registration, which is now ready for onward payment upon request by the municipality’s appointed transferring attorneys. In light of the above, it follows that a legally binding and enforceable agreement persists between our client and the municipality,” reads the letter seen by this publication. The company also wanted to be provided with documents detailing the municipality’s progress in relation to the rezoning of the land in order to have general business and residential rights.
“Kindly note that clause 14 of the Agreement envisages that the Municipality would take all steps necessary with regard to the rezoning and surveying of the Land, at the cost of our Client. Our client, in the event of such not being satisfactorily undertaken by the Municipality, is furthermore willing to tend to the rezoning and related affairs required to take transfer of the land,” reads the letter from Orban Investment’s legal team.