Infighting Stalls Development Project

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek A major shareholder in the Northland Development Project has revealed to the New Era that the billion-dollar Helao Nafidi project has stalled and will require goodwill from the government as well as hard work to get it back on track. The major shareholder who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that a fight between the former chairman Shapwa Kaukungua and the current board has virtually grounded the project. The shareholder noted that initially, the Northland Development Project only fired Kaukungua because of poor management style and lack of experience for such a big business venture. “The former Ambassador lacked business administration skills, knowledge and thus made crucial mistakes.” He added that Kaukungua was also expected to put up N$150 000 in shareholder fees but only managed to pay N$20 000 and because of that and other shortcomings, a decision was made to dump him. The shareholder further revealed that after Kaukungua was fired, he started lobbying support from other directors and especially the former National Council Chairperson Kandy Nehova who demanded his reinstatement. “It was almost impossible to have constructive meetings because other directors such as Dieudonne Mahoungou and Karlous Shinohamba insisted that Kaukungua be reinstated.” “Comrade Nehova took the cause of Kaukungua to be reinstated while his long-time friend Mahoungou made it difficult for the board to function and Shinohamba chose to stay away.” The shareholder said the appointment of former CEO Robert Kennedy sparked the entire controversy because Kaukungua apparently had a preferred candidate for the high office. He claims that since the time the former directors were dismissed, they have been instigating locals against the Northland Development Project. They also attacked their engineers who were trying to prepare the area, he claimed. The shareholder also revealed that they have brought their grievances to the local traditional authority in the area and the Oukwanyama Queen Saara. He added that other local headmen are aware of the problem. These revelations from the shareholder follow an earlier incident in which the CEO of the Northland Development Project Antoine Mbok wrote a letter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) requesting them to investigate a number of officials for trafficking of influence, intimidation, fraud and corruption. Mbok has called on the ACC to act in order to make sure the initiators of the project and especially the majority shareholders do not lose two years’ worth of work done on the project and over N$3 million in cash invested, as well as over N$25 million in engineering and consultation fees. Mbok claims that the former directors of the project especially the former chairman Ambassador Kaukungua have been acting in a manner that adversely affected Northland through issuance of illegal correspondence on Northland’s letterheads to organizations such as the Ministry of Trade and Helao Nafidi Town Council. “The dismissed directors are lying about having State House instructions to organizations such as the Ministry of Trade and the Town Council and sabotaging Northland’s agreements with various partners such as the Roads Construction Company and Nedbank.” The CEO further claims that the dismissed directors are instigating people in the area against Northland’s engineers as well as influencing them not to relocate and fight Northland. He noted that Northland has contacted a number of authorities to investigate and where appropriate charge individuals for abusing their authority and misrepresenting themselves. “We have evidence of former director Kaukungua interfering in the company’s ability to register changes and evidence of why the company could not register changes on the company’s records.” Mbok said the Town Council of Helao Nafidi through the office of the CEO has been putting pressure on Northland by refusing to cooperate unless Northland reinstates directors that were legally dismissed from the board. “These dismissed directors had nothing to do with the creation of the project and were not even present when we negotiated with the town council from the start. Our complaint is against public officers abusing their authority and intimidating citizens.” He also indicated that Northland has completed its own investigations for a civil lawsuit against the town council for damages and criminal charges against the former directors for fraud and misrepresentation. Contacted for comment, the CEO of Helao Nafidi, Chris Shivolo dismissed the allegations but stated that Northland should solve its internal problems before they plan to go ahead with the project. “I think Mbok himself must be investigated and the town council is just trying to be vigilant.” Shivolo said he couldn’t understand how Northland managed to fire its former directors after they invested so much money into the project. “When Northland started, they had Namibians on board but they have now fired all of them.” Shivolo also noted that they decided to allocate land to Northland because they believed it was a truly Namibian company. Ambassador Kaukungua when contacted for comment stated that he did not wish to respond to allegations but would speak on the matter at a later stage. Erna Van der Merwe from the ACC refused to comment on the details of the letter but confirmed that she met Mbok this week. “We cannot reveal such matters because the public will lose confidence in us,” she said.