Weaponizing the police to silence Comalie

The suggestion that the police were weaponized to scare or distract National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR) board Chairperson Jennifer Comalie away from taking action to address a disputed N$100 million payment to Sonangol, the Angolan national oil company, forces all of us to sit up and take notice. If N$57,000 in illegal narcotics were planted in Chairperson Comalie’s car and the police were anonymously tipped off as a part of a frame game, Namibian infighting and backstabbing in the halls of power have reached a new low.
This entire saga is unfolding in the news daily, and background information fueling this editorial is readily available. We acknowledge the complete story about this eyebrow-raising power struggle between Comalie and embattled NAMCOR Managing Director Immanuel Mulunga is yet to be revealed. As always, in Namibia, unsubstantiated rumors are flying. Commentary, therefore, on the issues raised should remain in general terms, focusing on the bigger picture rather than the ever-changing details.
That said, it is documented that the NAMCOR Board Chairperson met with her appointing authority to ask for protection in light of tangibly perceived threats to her safety. Two weeks later, as the line Minister for NAMCOR Finance and SOE Minister Iipumu Shiimi stated, it was ‘peculiar’ that drugs were suddenly found in Comalie’s car. She was arrested for the drugs, forced to appear in open court, make headlines, and publicly humiliated. That a situation exists in Namibia to compel a rational, educated professional to alert two ministers (Minister Tom Alweendo of Mines and Energy and Shiimi) to threats lodged against her, and then a grenade in the guise of possibly planted illegal drugs is lobbed at her, should scare everyone. In 1553, English Protestant reformer John Bradford was attributed to the statement, “There but for the grace of God go I,” as he watched fellow protestants being executed. He was burned at the stake two years later. If evidence planting and physical threats can happen to one party in a public high-stakes altercation, it can happen to anybody when someone with means believes their vital interests are at risk. Everyone must now watch their backs in a different way in Namibia.
There are plots in British and American detective television shows and movies about planting incriminating evidence on an enemy or rival. Could the enemies of Comalie have subscriptions to Netflix or Amazon Prime?
No doubt finding drugs in Comalie’s car and ensuring her arrest that day kept her from the imminent board meeting where the suspension of the embattled CEO may have been on the agenda. The battleground between the NAMCOR CEO and Board has existed for some time. A possibly unapproved significant payment by the NAMCOR CEO to Sonangol must be reconciled. The illegality of NAMCOR’s fuel theft from Walvis Bay’s storage facility demands accountability. It is the board’s duty to be the first line of defense to ensure the company and its officials comply with the rule of law. Ironically, the Hollywood-worthy scenario that includes sketchy drug planting to forestall Board action is for naught. An institution is not one person. The board’s review of management’s actions will not go away.
With the latest twist involving drugs in the NAMCOR saga, the plot thickens. The investigative target of what happened to Comalie must be expanded to include possible accessories in potential fraud, obstruction of justice, and drug charges involved regarding where the stash originated. Notoriously dangerous drug dealers could be tangentially involved as the stash came from somewhere. Corporate connections to NAMCOR and its officers regarding the US$8.5 billion Sonangol Group and any middlemen quietly profiting from the oil deal might need to be examined. This mess can get ugly.
The painful snail’s pace of Namibia’s criminal investigations is epic and likely played a role if there was a decision to weaponize the police. It could take months or years to get to the bottom of this situation and get a court date, judgment, and final resolution for Comalie. By then, the Chairperson’s reputation and professional advancement prospects will be tainted, the previously imminent board vote to suspend the Managing Director has been delayed, the Sonangol deal may be well underway, and the public’s short attention span would have lapsed.
The other 800-pound gorilla in the room regarding this situation must be addressed. Is Comalie, a woman of color, under siege at NAMCOR to the extent that would not occur if she were male or white? Is it possible that there was an aggressive cabal of men who thought a substantive woman of color placed in a position of power was a push-over, learned that she was not, and then went into the laager to undercut her? Over the past several years, there has been other clashes with women ministers, city officials, board chairpersons, or top executives under siege by the malicious male mafia and their beneficiaries. Ask the women of substance who have been in embattled power positions about threats, attacks, insults, character assassination, and pressure they received when they balked at demands that they not ask certain questions or rock the money boat. Could Namibia be witnessing yet another example of male chauvinistic corporate sabotage of another intelligent, hard-working woman in a high post?
The police are investigating themselves to see if they were used as a tool in someone else’s power game. We question the efficacy of asking the watchers to watch themselves but will await the outcome. We tip our hats to Ministers Tom Alweendo and Iipumbu Shiimi, whose actions in this matter may well be the protective barrier between Comalie and those who want her slapped down.
Internal strife in the halls of power will always exist on some level. Still, we must draw the line if there has been a fabrication of criminal evidence to weaponize the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts to attack an opponent. Perhaps infighting will sink as low as framing people for murder, hiring stormtroopers to attack family members, or using electronic surveillance to find embarrassing information. These things happen regularly in many other countries when payments, profits, and power are at stake. In Namibia, let’s draw the line here. Our officials must get to the bottom of the full details of the Comalie situation and NAMCOR as quickly as possible.

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