Namibia: Farmgate

The presidency said there is absolutely no truth in the allegations that President Hage Geingob inappropriately used his office to assist President Matamela Ramaphosa. State House on Friday issued a statement over what it calls “unfounded allegations” that President Geingob might have assisted his South African counterpart Ramaphosa in “apprehending” a suspect connected to the Phala Phala farm burglary.

What is now termed “Farmgate” is a potential politically and criminally damaging saga of Ramaphosa’s presidency. The 2020 theft of US$4 million from his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo has hogged the headlines the past week after his former spy chief laid criminal charges against him.

Arthur Fraser alleged that Namibian criminals broke into that farm to steal the money hidden in furniture. Ramaphosa has admitted a close relationship with Geingob, but at a media briefing on Friday would not say if he sought the latter’s help to cover up the robbery that took place in 2020.

South African opposition politicians have pounced on the scandal that threatens Ramaphosa’s reign. Last week, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) disrupted proceedings during the debate on the presidency’s budget vote.

EFF MP Sinawo Tambo said: “Ramaphosa has breached his oath of office, he has contravened the [Prevention and] Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, he has contravened the [Prevention of] Organised Crime Act.”

The Democratic Alliance’s leader John Steenhuisen said, “Phala Phala is fast becoming your Nkandla,” pointing also to the “blurring of the lines between Mr Ramaphosa the head of state, and Mr Ramaphosa the businessman”.

Namibia’s presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari said the President is a champion of “the rule of law and effective constitutional governance.

“Certain individuals and a number of media houses, out of context and clearly motivated by malice or other ulterior motives, have been suggesting, without any factual basis, President Geingob may have used his office, in a manner incompatible with the laws of the Republic of Namibia” the press secretary said. He also called the allegations “slanderous, outrageous and unfortunate”.

Hengari said the presidency had an opportunity to look in particular at paragraph 13.23 of Fraser’s statement under oath, which is publicly available, and which reads: “President Ramaphosa sought the assistance of the President of Namibia, President Hage Geingob, in apprehending the suspect in Namibia.”

Hengari said Fraser’s statement does not make any allegation of criminality on the part of Geingob, except a suggestion that Ramaphosa “sought” assistance from Geingob “in apprehending” – which literally means “assistance in arresting” the concerned suspect, who is a South African citizen, and who at the time was alleged to have unlawfully entered Namibia.

Hengari said the portion referred to by Fraser’s statement, if properly considered on an objective basis, simply suggests that Ramaphosa “sought assistance in apprehending” the concerned suspect.

According to him, the details regarding the arrest of the suspect in Namibia are matters of public record.

“The arrest was executed by members of the Namibian Police upon reasonable suspicion that the suspect in question had committed some immigration-related offences in Namibia,” Hengari explained.

He said the suspect was, in accordance with the law, subsequently convicted by a criminal court in Namibia, and paid a fine.

The apprehension of suspects in Namibia is a constitutional and statutory duty of members of the Namibian Police who, on reasonable suspicion that a person may have committed an offence, are mandated to effect an arrest if it is deemed appropriate and necessary.

On the other hand, he said, persons suspected to have committed offences in foreign countries who may be located in Namibia are dealt with in terms of the International Cooperation in Criminal Matters Act of 2000 or the Extradition Act of 1996, unless they voluntarily return to the countries where they are sought.

“The President is not a repository of power when it comes to the apprehension of suspects alleged to have committed offences in foreign countries”.

“The Presidency finds the politically motivated statements by some political leaders in South Africa, that criminal investigations be conducted against the President of the Republic of Namibia, to be absurd and downright nonsensical.”

He said Geingob liaises with other Heads of State on official matters, within established State-to-State diplomatic protocols, in accordance with the constitutional powers of the President, and upon the dictates of international practices on mutual cooperation between Heads of State and Government.