President Hage Geingob yesterday said contrary to perceptions emanating from international media reports, it was not his idea to grant EPZ status to embattled French nuclear power giant Areva.
The President, under pressure from opposition benches in the National Assembly during yesterday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), said he acted on recommendation of the ministry of mines and energy, then under the leadership of Minister Erkki Nghimtina.
“The ministry of mines are the ones who pushed for EPZ status for Areva, which was for five years. A committee wrote to me with a recommendation that I approve the EPZ status, and I complied,” Geingob told parliament yesterday.
Areva is embroiled in a damaging scandal involving its former executives, who are accused and charged of corruption and bribery related to how the company bought out Canada’s UraMin’s African assets, some of which were in Namibia.
Some fingers pointed at President Geingob, who this week had to rope in the services of lawyer Sisa Namandje to demand a retraction from Radio France Internationale (RFI), which reported that payments to Geingob were under the microscope of French authorities.
The report suggested that Geingob personally benefitted from the sale of UraMin to Areva, an allegation he strongly denies. The Head of State maintained that he only acted as a consultant for UraMin who facilitated the acquisition of a mining licence for the company.
“I was opposed to the sale of UraMin to Areva in that government didn’t get anything from the transaction. I was angry because I was not consulted as minister of trade,” he said of the sale, which happened during his time as trade minister.
Geingob was Swapo backbencher until he was appointed minister of trade in April 2008.
He said a payment of US$300 000 was made to him and he shared the amount with unnamed South African partners who helped him secure the consultancy job for the Canadians.
“I received US$300 000 from UraMin for facilitating their acquisition of a mining license. I shared the money with two South Africans whom I worked with,” he said yesterday, when asked by leader of the opposition in parliament, McHenry Venaani.
“Everything was declared in parliament, where I was a backbencher at the time.”
The President insisted that he was no minister at the time and hence denied conflict. Yesterday he dubbed his consultancy work as “wise” decision to work for himself, having earlier left his cushy job as executive secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington, D.C.
Reports later this week alleged that Geingob received portions of US$10 000 between 2008 and 2009 – in his personal capacity. French investigators are trying to establish whether such payments indeed occurred and whether they have origins to Areva receiving EPZ status in Namibia.
“I made my money way back. I work for my own money – that’s why I worked as a consultant. I’ve nothing to do with whatever corruption happened in Europe,” an irate Geingob said.