News and Information

Red-faced in Brazil
December 17, 2004

A NAMIBIAN trade delegation to Brazil found itself embarrassed this week after two Cabinet ministers turned up to sign the same agreement, unaware of each other's presence.

Sources from other southern African countries, speaking from Brazil, related to The Namibian that Trade and Industry Minister Jesaya Nyamu arrived at the conference and was questioned by Brazilian foreign affairs officials perplexed about his role.

Namibia got even more egg on its face when Nyamu asserted that he was not only Minister of Trade and Industry, but also head of the delegation that was to sign an agreement between the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and Mercosur.

Mercosur is a trading block of four South American countries:Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The Brazilians told him, in the presence of delegates from Namibia's neighbours, that the Minister of Fisheries, Dr Abraham Iyambo, was already in town to sign the agreement.

Officials of the South American country also showed Nyamu a letter from the Namibian embassy in Brasilia indicating that Iyambo was the head of the delegation.

Sources in Windhoek told The Namibian this week that President Sam Nujoma had sidelined Nyamu, without telling him, and instead sent Iyambo to sign the agreement.

This was despite the fact that Cabinet had reportedly approved a submission by Nyamu, who had been spearheading talks on behalf of the Namibian Government to sign a trade pact with Mercosur.

Nyamu left for Brazil on Monday and was not expected back until this weekend.

The agreement was scheduled to be signed today.

But The Namibian understands the Trade and Industry Minister was so embarrassed that he stayed less than 12 hours in Brazil before flying back to Namibia.

When The Namibian approached him on arrival yesterday, Nyamu claimed:"I came back because I got a message of some problem in the family and I decided to break my engagement.

"Since we had another minister there, I left that minister with the responsibility to do the signing."

Nyamu, whose name has been frequently mentioned lately as a possible candidate for dismissal from Government or a humiliating demotion, would not be drawn into commenting about the presence of Iyambo.

An explanation for the mix-up could also not be obtained by the time of going to press from State House, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Namibian embassy in Brasilia.

It is not clear how much the trip by Nyamu and his delegation cost the State.

"Two ministers to sign the same thing while there is space for only one signature?" remarked one of the sources, adding that "the country looked stupid."


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