Mines and Energy Minister, Tom Alweendo says he is clean, asserting that his only sin could be enforcing the laws.
He made these remarks exonerating himself from corruption or being a beneficiary of graft, as allegation of N$50 million bribe to favour another company for an exclusive prospecting licence have been made against him.
He however, acknowledged that corruption may have been committed in the system, but ruled out in such in this particularly instance in which it is mentioned.
“I am not corrupt, however, one can be corrupted, and this can be done by a valuation team who recommend things to me and I can eventually approve under the impression things are above board. However, in this case of the N$50 million, I am not involved nor did I receive a cent. All I can tell you, is many of those who complain or end up approaching the courts, it is companies who have not made use of the EPLs instead hold onto them, and later want to renew, something we are not condoning as we give to the next applicant who is capable,” he said while addressing the media today.
Alweendo’s reaction follows widespread allegations that he, including the mining commissioner Erasmus Shivolo and a former employee of the ministry Ralph Muyamba, who closely worked under the minister’s office for three-years, allegedly benefited from a N$50 million bribe, for their alleged role to block the renewal of the exploration licence (EPL) for Karlowa Mining Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, belonging to Timoteus Mashuna, in favour of Orange River Mining (Pty) Ltd, which the social media post alleged was owned by Muyamba’s proxy, Peter Karel Shifwaku.
It was further alleged that Orange River Mining had applied for an EPL over the same area.
According to Alweendo his powers end where he issues a licence, what happens after that it is none of his business. “So what I discovered is that Orange River was looking for investors and wanted to sell the licence to Hileni Company for N$4.6 million, but such deal went awry and went off. That is when Xinfeng comes in and bought the licence for N$50 million, who the negotiator was and how this was resolved, I don’t know because it’s not in my power and I am not involved,” he countered.
He added to say, the mineral claim first belonged to Karlowa Mining but was not renewed because it did not perform or carry any operations as required, thus the licence had to be issued to the next applicant. “So I did not know this applicant is allegedly a relative to someone that worked in my office and the ministry. I acted based on recommendation from the valuation committee. We have also noted that, many who complain are those wanting to renew of which their requests are being declined on the basis of inability, and I am unapologetic about that because I will continue to take away such. We need to give to those with skills and money, so that the minerals can be monetised and generate income for the benefit of the nation, instead of entitlement,” he vowed.
“I cannot rule out that there are officials who deliberately give licences to undeserving individuals, thus if that is happening it is not sanctioned by me. That is why in 2019 we did put a moratorium on issuance of minerals and exploration licences to launch an internal investigation amid the concerns raised. It was at this point in time where applicants would complain because it could take a year or two for them to hear feedback whether successful or not, so these are some of the issues picked up, which could be alluded as corruption because those who might not succeed can question the credibility of the process,” stated the minister.
In addition, Alweendo said, “sometimes one can do something wrong but that does not mean its corruption as it could be an honest mistake, but there are those who might do it for themselves, hence I encourage the staff members to do things by the book and be ethical at all times.”In the 2019 internal investigation, according to the Minister, it was discovered that there were loopholes in the system as well as bureaucracy in how applications were being handled.
“Since we have sealed all the loopholes and the delays, it only takes no more than six months for an applicant to hear their fate as opposed to before, though there is still a need to do more, as I believe there might still be some ways of manoeuvring. Hence, we want to drive the online application agenda so that we can minimize the physical human interaction that might lead to corruption,” he suggested.
Another solution, he says, is to rotate key employees from positions of authority, reasoning that the longer they occupy the office the more susceptible and vulnerable they become to corruption.
“Maybe in 2019 the internal processes would not be so convincing, thus a solution will also to source services of an independent investigator, maybe we might uncover something. So colleagues, lets redeem ourselves because the belief is that we are corrupt, that is why the public is complaining, so let’s be ethical by all means,” he urged.