…as Sun Karros divides Shifeta, NWR
Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta this week denied claims that Sun Karros-a company that has entered into several lucrative deals with Namibia Wildlife Resorts(NWR)-is receiving favourable treatment from his office.
This follows claims that Shifeta was accorded free accommodation at Sun Karros Daan Viljoen outside Windhoek in March this year along with his kids and family.
An invoice sent by Shifeta to The Patriot in which he seeks to clear claims that he stayed there for free.
According to the invoice, he paid N$19 000 for his stay at Daan Viljoen.
Sun Karros has been the darling of NWR when it comes to joint ventures in recent years, but Shifeta maintains that the private tourism firm does not receive any favourable treatment.
Although he confirmed staying at the facility with his family, the minister said he paid for his stay.
“I was there because we had a confirmation of one of my children and some close family and friends came over as well. I paid the stay an there is nothing dubious about it,” he said.
Talks alleged that the proximity of Shifeta to the Struwig family puts them at a competitive advantage when it comes to landing deals in the tourism sector which the minister oversees.
“There is no truth in that, I have no links to them. I met [Bertus]Struwig a few years back through Prosperity Health and that is as far as it goes,” he explained.
Sources at Daan Viljoen also expressed concern over the decision of the park’s management to give Shifeta a gate key.
Shifeta was given a gate key by Struwig.
And although the minister admitted that he got a key from Struwig, he said the keys belong to the ministry.
“The park belongs to the ministry, not to Sun Karros or NWR. They are only in charge of the campsite, the rest of the areas is MET property”
Several partnership agreements entered into between Sun Karros and NWR have pitted the state tourism company against Shifeta
Commenting on joint venture agreements entered into between NWR and Sun Karros recently, Shifeta said the agreements were decided upon prior to his arrival at the ministry.
Under the joint venture agreement, signed last month, several glamping facilities will be constructed at NWR controlled jurisdictions within the various national parks.
The agreement states that NWR should make its assets available to Sun Karros at facilities such as Daan Viljoen, Namutoni, Okaukuejo, Hobas, Sesriem and Waterberg.
Shifeta said he questioned the Board of NWR to provide answers.
“I received[the answers] and consequently I instructed my technical team to meet with the NWR management and for a two past weeks they held meetings to gauge specific answers which they reported.
Because none of those responses provided clear information on the purported recent concluded agreements.
I have analyzed their responses including the Board’s. I have already requested Minister of Public enterprise and Minister of Finance to join me having a meeting with the NWR Board as soon as we are done with regional consultations to gauge more information and take decisions based on the outcomes of the meeting,” he said.
The minister said a letter he sent to NWR board chair Leonard Ipumbu on 12 April 2018 in which he gave approval to NWR and Sun Karros to use an existing road which runs parallel and adjacent to the Sesriem Campsite.
“That letter only gave them the way of use of the road not the permission of Clamping which according to the documents provided to me were approved in 2008 as per their claim as part of turn around strategies approved by Cabinet,” he explained
He said NWR informed him that there were no new contracts with Sun Karos because all agreements including Clamping at Daan Viljoen, Etosha and Namib Naukluft were done in 2008 as part of their turn-around strategy that was approved by Cabinet.
“As the minister I still have to abide by the laws of professionalism and follow due procedures otherwise I will be overstepping my mandate. I do not want to micromanage affairs at institutions,” he said.
Shifeta also indicated that NWR “get irritated when I question them and some think it’s a witchunt”.
NWR’s managing director Zelna Hengari signed off the Sun Karros deal on 11 June 2018, less than two weeks after Sun Karros managing director Kobus Struwig signed on behalf of Sun Karros.
One of the negotiation players told The Patriot that an agreement was reached regarding the usage of the facilities, although NWR has its reservations, further indicating that the two parties are still ironing some contents of the agreement.
The source said the investment could have repercussions on domestic travellers as well as NWR which could be put under pressure—especially at a time when Namibians continue to contribute immensely to the country’s boom tourism times.
Described as a “mutually beneficial business relationship”, “Sun Karros will provide and build luxury tented camps and luxury camping at Daan Viljoen Game Reserve, Hobas, Sesriem, Namutoni, Okaukuejo and Waterberg and deliver services to NWR and NWR will make available assets, services and workforce to Sun Karros on the terms and conditions set out herein.”
The joint venture is an unincorporated partnership between the two parties.
Although a date has not been set yet, the first camps will be built in Sesriem followed by Hobas.
It is not known how much control and influence will have in the venture because, under the agreement, all business shall be conducted solely under the name of Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris. Only sales and marketing material will reflect the partnership with NWR.
Regarding the luxury camps, Sun Karros will be the exclusive partner for the development and building of the products and related activities.