By Mathias Haufiku
WINDHOEK – Defence Minister Nahas Angula has said talks that Namibia was planning to host a Chinese naval base were devoid of any truth and blamed the rumour on unidentified “foreign spies”.
Government has been under pressure to clear the air over such claims, but Angula yesterday reiterated that there was nothing truthful to it.
It was reported that China was planning to construct a naval base in Walvis Bay.
“When foreign spy agencies want to confirm something they plant information in the media to draw attention. In this case, they wanted reaction from us,” Angula said.
“There is no truth in those rumours and it is the figment of the mind of whoever planted it. Namibia is a non-aligned nation and it will remain such,” said the defence minister.
Meanwhile, Angula said the military-owned August 26 Holdings company has no plans to muscle out firms which it competes against in the private sector, contrary to widespread fears in the industry.
This comes at a time when taxpayers are yearning to know the exact operations of the company, as it continues to win tenders worth millions without presenting audited financial reports to parliament. Angula, however, rejected claims that the company is not held accountable.
Government has over the years remained adamant that defence-related information can, at no stage, be declassified for security reasons.
Angula, responding to questions from the media yesterday when he gave his New Year’s greetings to the ministerial staff, said, “In Namibia most of the key sectors that form the pillar of the economy such as fishing, mining and hospitality are owned by foreign multinationals or families instead of authentic Namibians. We own nothing and therefore we must live on salaries while, at the same time, we have no productive assets. When will we have these assets? We must start somewhere,” said Angula, who is set to go into retirement on March 21.
He said there is nothing wrong with August 26 taking over the economy through its business dealings because it is fully Namibian-owned and it complies with all laws of the country.
“August 26 Holdings is registered under the company law, it has a board, auditors and all other requirements of the company law. It is responsible and accountable,” said Angula.
For those fearing that August 26 Holdings might take over the economy by winning all lucrative tenders in the country, Angula said: “If that happens, then we must all celebrate because the economy will be owned by Namibians.”
He also explained why the military-owned firm receives exemption from certain tenders.
“There is a general exception for certain things we purchase, but that exception is only for the general tender board. There is a Cabinet Committee on Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs to which we take our tenders. It is not accurate to say we are exempted from tenders.
We go there to get approval for whatever tender we want to issue,” said Angula.
Last September, August 26 Holdings expanded its business arm when it established its ninth subsidiary company – August 26 UBM
Construction, which now forms part of its other business interests in sectors such as defence, textile, satellite, catering, logistics and insurance sectors.
Talk is also rife that with the construction of a state-of-the-art N$450 million military hospital in Windhoek to commence soon, the new construction company might be given the nod to construct the new military hospital or to go into partnership with more experienced firms.
The inauguration of August 26 Holdings in 1998 sparked criticism from the private sector and from those who suspected that the Namibian army might be trying to mimic other military groups in countries such as Egypt, who in recent years gained power and wealth through a vast network of military businesses.