… Hengari responds to Iipumbu claims
The Namibia Wildlife Resorts board chairperson Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu yesterday said that the NWR Managing Director Zelna Hengari misled the current board into approving the Joint Venture agreement between the parastatal and Sun Karros.
Sun Karros is the same company that got the mandate to take over the popular Daan Viljoen resort outside Windhoek a few years ago.
Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta told The Patriot yesterday that the matter regarding the joint venture is between Sun Karros and NWR and that he did not give approval and is not party to the matter between the two. The joint venture was for the purpose of putting up a N$43 million glamorous camping site at Sesriem that is situated inside the Namib Naukluft Park.
The High Court of Namibia will on an urgent basis on 19 April hear the matter between Sun Karros and Namibia Wildlife Resorts over the cancellation of the said Joint Venture agreement.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism on 2 April notified the court that they have no intention of opposing Sun Karros Lifestyle’s application.
This is after the Sun Karros in its court documents stated that they do not seek any relief against the ministry, unless the minister opposes the application.
Sun Karros took NWR to court late last month, to enforce a Joint Venture the two parties entered into in May of last year. The agreement was however cancelled after it was allegedly found that the Joint venture was not concluded procedurally.
NWR board chairperson Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu told The Patriot yesterday that they stand by their decision to have the agreement cancelled because the current board entered into the agreement on the basis of false information.
Iipumbu said that NWR Managing Director Zelna Hengari presented to the new board that the previous board had approved the agreement, but could not produce a resolution by the previous board to prove same.
While reference is made to letters where Iipumbu expresses excitement over the project, the board chairperson said that any letter or agreement he signed was as a result of the board being made to believe that the agreement had followed all necessary procedures and had been approved by the previous board.
He maintains that the current board had been misled by Hengari. When asked whether she indeed misled the current board into approving the joint venture as alleged by the Ambassador, Hengari responded by saying, “I don’t care”, further referring questions about her misleading the board to the NWR spokesperson.
Sun Karros was notified of the cancellation of the agreement in a letter dated 7 March 2019.
Sun Karros managing director Jacobus Marthinus Struwig in his founding affidavit, filed on 27 March protested that NWR sought to cancel the joint venture agreement “under circumstances in which it is not entitled to do” and that they notified Sun Karros to immediately stop with all construction activities.
Basing their argument on the (now disputed) approval of the NWR board, Sun Karros is asking the court to preserve the current contractual agreement between the parties while a decision is arrived at, regarding the dispute on whether an approval was granted or not.
The tourism sector in Namibia was the largest-earning industry in 2015 generating N$7.6 billion in that year which represented 60% of total services exports in the country.
The sector contributed a total of N$5.2 billion directly towards the Gross Domestic Product which translated to 3.5% of the total GDP. Tourism in the same year also indirectly contributed N$15.1 billion (10.2%) towards the GDP.
The Patriot in February reported that the agreement to allow for Sun Karros to put up private accommodation within the resort’s property was seen by some board members and those in the tourism industry as direct competition with NWR’s business ventures.
The Patriot reported that a board member had told a meeting with Shifeta, that the Board made a very clear resolution that they would not approve any glamping concept until they had seen business and construction plans and all the details about the agreement with protracted costs.
While the Board and the line ministry searched for legal advice to nullify several joint venture agreements and at the time ordered construction at Sesriem to be put on hold, all efforts proved futile as the structures now stand and marketing has commenced.
Sun Karros’ Managing Director was quoted in the media saying the camping sites are essentially completed and that they expected their first bookings in July this year.