President-elect defends wealthy blacks

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By Mathias Haufiku

WINDHOEK – President-elect Hage Geingob says there are misguided perceptions that obscenely rich black people in Namibia have amassed their wealth through dubious means while wealthy whites are often spared similar conclusions.

The personal wealth of many black Namibians, especially emerging businesspeople, has often come under the spotlight with suspicion, or even allegations that their riches were ill-acquired.

Geingob this week expressed his annoyance at such perceptions, especially when it is only targeted at wealthy blacks while the wealth of white Namibians is rarely, if ever, questioned.

Black people should not be made to feel guilty for their wealth, the incoming president said on Monday.

“Why is it that when a black person is rich people start asking how that person got his money but when it is a white person no one questions anything,” said a visibly unimpressed Geingob.

He made the remarks during Monday’s press conference where he announced his plans to establish a Presidential Council, and the names of his eight presidential appointees.

Citing wealthy white Namibians, Geingob said: “When my good friend Quinton van Rooyen bought a Bentley, no one said anything, but if that was a black person people would be asking questions.”

Van Rooyen, whose family owns 50.84% of Trustco Group, was listed as the 36th richest person in South Africa, according to a list compiled by the Sunday Times newspaper In December last year.

His net wealth was said to be N$1.099 billion.

Several young black Namibians have in recent years amassed considerable wealth through their various business ventures. However, the pace at which some of them became rich has sparked talks of corruption as the potential source of their riches.

Many have not been shy to flaunt their wealth by acquiring posh mansions in affluent suburbs and driving around in flashy cars such as Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Porsche that all cost between N$1 million and N$4 million.

Although most of their business dealings are known, corruption claims still continue to be made regarding the way black Namibians acquire their wealth while the white tycoons are often never subjected to the same judgments.

Many wealthy blacks have well-established companies operating in the lucrative fish, mining, diamond and construction industries.
Geingob, who himself is often a subject of perceptions of a lavish life, said the fact that there are Namibians living in poverty should not be a reason for others not to be wealthy.

Geingob implored those with evidence of corrupt activities to come forward and alert the authorities.
“Those that are corrupt must be exposed so that we, all of us, can deal with them.”

He also denied that there is systematic corruption in Namibia, but admitted that like any other society, there would always be corrupt individuals.

“We are generally a clean country – than we are often portrayed to be.”
Geingob will officially assume executive state authority on March 21 when President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s term comes to an end.

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