Corruption case divides Swapo

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s anti-corruption drive has reignited divisions within the ruling party and is driving a wedge between himself and his predecessor Sam Nujoma, according to Swapo insiders.

When Pohamba forced Paulus Kapia to resign from his Cabinet in late August, it seemed a mere formality that he would also be expelled from the former liberation movement as well. Kapia became the first government leader since independence in 1990 to be axed after becoming embroiled in corruption. The Nujoma protégé often served as the veteran politician’s megaphone.
At his mentor’s behest, Kapia took a frontline role in the bitter inner-party race for the presidency that has made him enemies among senior Swapo leaders. A financial investment scandal that came to light four months ago gave his detractors an opening.

Kapia, who was the deputy minister of works, transport and communication, left the government under pressure following a high court liquidation inquiry into the embezzlement of R37-million, which had been invested with his company Avid Investment Corporation. R30-million belonged to the Social Security Commission (SSC), a state welfare agency, whose source of income is monthly tax levies. R7-million belonged to the Swapo business arm, Kalahari Holdings.

Instead of investing the money in interest-bearing funds, Avid CEO Lazarus Kandara passed R29-million on to another dubious investment manager, Nicolaas Josea. Josea in turn diverted R20-million to Johannesburg-based Alan Rosenberg, a discredited financial trader who promised returns as high as 280% in two weeks. It has since emerged that the money was shared between the three businessmen. They paid kickbacks to Avid directors, such as Kapia, who allegedly received R40 000.

Kapia used his position as secretary of the Swapo Youth League to secure the investments from the SSC and Kalahari Holdings. In mid-August, the Swapo youth wing suspended Kapia and another Avid shareholder and youth leader, Ralph Blaauw.

Last month, the Swapo Politburo followed suit and suspended Kapia. The Politburo announced that he would resign as a lawmaker, effectively paving the way for his expulsion.

But Kapia has thus far defied the Politburo decision, which Swapo secretary general Ngarikutuke Tjiriange says he “communicated” to him. “As to why he is going slow is not my problem.”

Sources in Swapo say Kapia, sensing the backing of Nujoma and his loyalists, asked Tjiriange to clarify the request for him to abandon his parliamentary seat and called for “justice to be done”. According to Swapo sources, it appears as though the youth league is also backing off because of “interference” from senior politicians.

Nujoma has remained silent about the saga, save for distancing himself from the accusation that Avid directors had used his name to secure business from the SSC. His indifference has not helped Pohamba’s anti-corruption drive and has heightened tension among factions in the party that have formed around Nujoma and his former minister of foreign affairs, Hidipo Hamutenya, who narrowly failed to make the cut for a seat in parliament after last year’s elections.

Hamutenya tops the Swapo list of candidates to fill the vacancy in the National Assembly created by Kapia’s departure. But Nujoma’s faction is not ready to agree to Hamutenya, who lost the party candidacy for president in a bruising fight against Pohamba.

People close to Pohamba say that tension is also brewing between him and Nujoma. Pohamba assumed the reins with a promise of “zero tolerance” on corruption. He has made efforts to be seen to be living up to this pledge, unlike Nujoma, who tolerated the vice.

The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Albert Kawana, has dismissed as “total nonsense” suggestions that the two were on different levels in the fight against graft. Tjiriange also weighed in: “People in Swapo are not cows doing things the same way. There is always a difference of opinion. But all of us are working well together.”

Despite their protestations, Kapia’s sudden hardening of attitude, insiders say, points to fresh divisions in the Swapo party.

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