By Megameno Shikwambi
Four firebrand politicians have teamed up to draw swords against State Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste and Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein, accusing them of sabotage and protecting “white interests”, The Patriot is reliably informed.
Jooste was reportedly taken to task by James Sankwasa, Veikko Nekundi, Maureen Hinda and Natangwe Ithete on allegations that he has interests in Westair; the aviation company that has taken over the local skies.
SWAPO Party in Parliament like all political parties with a seat Parliament has a caucus for the purpose of debating legislation that will feature in Parliament to enable the party to take a pre-determined position.
It exists to create synergy in terms of its legislative agenda.
With the SWAPO electoral congress slated for end of July, there is much jostling for attention, profile and position in the caucus.
Analysts predict that tensions and sharp divisions will increase as the day draws closer.
Increasingly under siege is the role of the Prime Minister Saara Kuukongelwa to manage inner party divisions on policy matters. Both the Whatsapp group known as the SWAPO Parliamentarians with over 80 members and the Caucus have recently degenerated into a platform of mud-slinging, mistrust and character assassination.
On Monday this week the SWAPO caucus met to discuss the highly contentious Air Namibia – West Air stand-off.
According to our source, the debate was moved by Public Enterprises Deputy Minister Veikko Nekundi who stated “there is someone in my ministry with interests in West Air”.
A full presentation followed much along the same lines of a press conference held by Jooste a few weeks ago, where he clarified his position amidst allegations that he had interests in Westair and was deliberately killing Air Namibia.
When approached for clarity, Nekundi asked questions to be e-mailed to his office and refused to provide his email address.
“I will give you tomorrow (Friday),” he said.
A highly placed source alleged that Ithete is currently playing a double agent, working with Schlettwein and accusing him of protecting white interests behind his back.
Ithete denied the accusations.
“First of all there is no member (who belongs) to a so called Swapo caucus.
There is no such a structure, so it’s like I am confused now. I am very far from Minister Leon Jooste.
I will not know what they are doing there.
Regarding the minister of finance, I am in the office of the minister.
He is just a minister and I am the deputy minister.
That is one office. So there is no way I will say something that is contrary to myself for example.
I am part of the office of the minister. I don’t know where those allegations are coming from,” he said.
When The Patriot approached Sankwasa he distanced himself from the allegations.
“That’s a lie. No, no, go back to the person.
How does that person bring me into that picture? I don’t know that,” he said.
He further said the issuing of the license to Westair was not within his ambit at the back of why Westair was allowed to operate from within.
“Look, I don’t allow Westair (sic). There is an organisation called Namibia Civil Aviation Authority.
It’s not the ministry. People don’t apply to the ministry to get permission.
There is no minister responsible for that, not even the PS is responsible for that.
Every airline applies to Namibia Civil (Aviation) Authority.
The Act is there that was passed in 2015,” he explained.
Pressed on what the stance of the ministry was on Westair being allowed to run business locally, thus posing a threat to Air Namibia, the minister said, “That’s not the right question to ask.”
Revelations emerged that the ministers based their allegations on an article ran by The Patriot last year which suggested that Jooste may have an interest in the aviation company.
Jooste, who has come out on the allegations, and is said to have explained himself on the WhatsApp group after which no further questions arose from the members.
The WhatsApp group is said to be a platform where the members discuss and debate general topics.
In a move that raised eyebrows, the Prime Minister instructed Maureen Hinda, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, to carry out a formal investigation into the allegations and report back.
Hinda is expected to make a formal presentation to the caucus on the Westair – Air Namibia fiasco in the coming weeks.
At the same time, The Patriot is reliably informed that the caucus has demanded answers from the executive to report to it about the goings on at Air Namibia.
Swapo chief whip, Evelyn Tayale-Nawases refused to be drawn into this stating “Caucus issues remain the inner party issues, therefore I am not at liberty to divulge any information regarding the meeting of the caucus.
As far as I am concerned, the government is seized with the (Air Namibia) matter and will inform nation through parliament at an appropriate time or whichever mode of communication they deem appropriate,” she said.
Chaos in parliament
In the meantime, there was chaos at parliament this week when members of the opposition vehemently opposed two bills which were tabled before them.
Deputy Minister of security Daniel Kashikola is said to have drawn the ire of parliamentarians when he presented the Arms and Ammunitions Amendment Bill with mistakes, which he was trying to correct in the process of presenting the bill.
“Muharukua then suggested to the deputy minister that he should withdraw the bill and go and have it reprinted containing all those amendments,” a source disclosed.
Schlettwein, also is said to have attempted to push through the Namibia Financial Institutions Markets Bill.
“Venaani wanted the minister of finance to withdraw his bill and to introduce it in September because the timing of the tabling and introducing it now was on short notice, and it is a thick bill to peruse and study in six days before we adjourn,” the source said.
Parliament is poised to go on recess on the 11th of July and some members felt that they still needed time to understand the Procurement and Public Private Partnership Acts first.
There were murmurings from Swapo parliamentarians when Schlettwein began reading the bill, the source added.
Official opposition president, McHenry Venaani proposed that the FIM-bill be postponed as many companies were mentioned.
A Swapo parliamentarian has confided with The Patriot that they agreed with Venaani but for the appearance of party unity they had to keep quiet.
“Schlettwein is also said to have tabled the bill without having talked about it at the Swapo caucus.”
It is now scheduled for tabling on Monday at the Caucus meeting.