Minister’s son, partners get N$6m land discount
15 February 2021 | Government
Windhoek • Jemima Beukes
Former Walvis Bay mayor Immanuel Wilfried is refusing to explain why he did not recuse himself from a council meeting that decided to sell a large plot to his nephew at a fraction of the usual cost.
Former Walvis Bay mayor Immanuel Wilfried sanctioned the sale of a 14-hectare plot valued at N$7 million for only N$865 000 to his nephew in 2015.
The transaction cost the council over N$6.1 million in lost revenue, according to estimates made by a coastal property developer as well as in-house calculations done by Namibian Sun. The calculations are based on the current going rate of N$50 per square metre at the town.
PAM Tree Investments CC is a company co-owned by urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni’s son, Josephat Shatilwe Uutoni. Minister Uutoni is married to Wilfried’s sister.
Shatilwe is a 21% shareholder in PAM Tree Investments. The company bought the land from the municipality for N$865 000 in 2015.
Uutoni and his partners paid N$6 per square metre for the land which is now in dispute.
The plan was to service 215 plots and build 205 low-cost houses.
Questions have been raised around the cost of plots recently. During an auction last year, the municipality charged prospective buyers N$337 per square metre for serviced residential erven in Kuisebmond. It sells unserviced land to developers for N$50 per square metre.
The Walvis Bay municipality spokesperson, Cathy Sheya, confirmed that on 28 October 2013, the council resolved that in-principle approval be granted for the sale of unserviced or unsurveyed land.
She declined to comment on what they charged per square metre and how the council decided on the price of N$860 000 for such a large piece of land.
The land is identified as Erf 5758 Kuisebmond and measures 13 8968 hectares or 138968 m². It was sold by private transaction to Palm Tree Investments (name amended to P.A.M. Tree Investment).
“According to the minutes of the ordinary council meeting held on 28 October 2013, there is no record of any recusal,” Sheya said.
She also pointed out that the only action the council can take when such land is not developed within five years is to adjust penalties.
Wilfried, on the other hand, refused to explain why he did not recuse himself given the relationship between him and Josephat.
“Uhm… my goodness what is this all about? Oh, my goodness. Sorry, sorry, which year was it? No, I think what you should do now, go back to the municipality, the documents are open, they will give you everything. Don’t ask me things about the nephew, the what and the what. I don’t deal with these types of things,” he said.
He declined to comment on his failure to recuse himself from the discussion.
“Oh, my dear, are you trying to really to accuse me of things that you don’t have any clue or understand? You don’t understand the whole concept. There is an acting CEO, go and ask them. Don’t ask me. I am just enjoying my life, I am a retired person, do not bother me,” he said.
Neither Erastus nor Josephat Utoni could be reached for comment.
PAM Tree Investment directors are currently embroiled in a legal squabble over unpaid money.
One of the directors, Wiseman Molatzi, is suing his partners for N$3.7 million which he claims to have invested in the company to buy the land and for engineering services provided by his firm, Conselect Engineering.
The other directors are deputy labour minister Hafeni Ndemula, Joshua Kaumbi, Charmaine Matheus, Tino Hanabeb, Ellis Egumbo and Michael Nalili Kawiwa.
The company owes the municipality about N$1.9 million in rates and taxes.
Walvis Bay residents have asked why the municipality is so lenient with the company given its huge debts.
“The municipality is really playing double standards. When home owners owe even N$40 000 your house will be attached by the municipality, but now that it is big names they are allowed to do as they please,” said a resident who chose to remain anonymous.
Last year Matheus wrote to the municipality pleading for more time to settle their bill.
In a letter dated 17 November 2020, seen by this publication, Matheus said the progress of the project was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The current land revelations come at a time when Walvis Bay residents are yearning to own a piece of land, with the housing backlog having exceeded 25 000 at the town.
In December 2020 the newly elected Walvis Bay council halted the sale of about 200 plots in order to scrutinise the procedures.
The town has been marred by alleged irregularities as far as land allocation is concerned.
In December, three senior staff and a junior staff member were suspended at the municipality pending an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The employees are Muronga Haingura, chief executive officer of the municipality, Augistino Victor, general manager of community and economic development, Jack Manale, manager for property and housing, and Constance Summers, a property clerk.
The suspension came after the ACC raided the offices of the four officials and seized equipment including laptops, desktops and cellphones on 9 December 2020.
The ACC is investigating allegations of corruption in relation to the alleged lack of transparency and unaccounted funds believed to belong to the mass housing project.
This investigation was initiated after N$24 million apparently went missing from the massive urban land servicing project.