News and Information

Cabinet order on rotten food aid being ignored
January 19, 2006


SIX months since Cabinet gave a directive that the people responsible for allowing 230 tonnes of food aid to rot in the Caprivi be held accountable, no action has been taken.

Yesterday, the Minister of Regional and Local Government, John Pandeni, said he had passed the responsibility of charging the culprits to the Caprivi Regional Council - excluding the Governor Bernard Sibalatani, because he was also the head of the Regional Emergency Management Unit (Remu), which was chiefly responsible for the food aid.

However, The Namibian has been unable to establish who exactly is in charge of taking action.

Both Sibalatani and the Chief Regional Officer, Raymond Matiti, say they know nothing about the matter.

'POLITICAL HOT POTATO' Pandeni would not say which individual he had assigned to lead the council on the matter in the absence of Sibalatani.

He said that from now on it would be up to the council to provide any further information on the matter.

It increasingly appears that a cat-and-mouse game is being played in finalising the matter, with insiders maintaining this week that "taking the brave step" of charging the culprits with misconduct and negligence has become a political hot potato nobody wants to touch.

"The Governor, as the Chair of Remu, is definitely not the one to act.

The whole council has been given the matter, except him.

If the case is given to the Governor there will be a conflict of interest," Pandeni told The Namibian on inquiry.

Pandeni said that central Government was no longer responsible for dealing with the issue and that an outcome had to be awaited from the Caprivi Regional Council.

"They have the matter and are dealing with it.

I wouldn't know how much longer it will take," said Pandeni, maintaining that the news media were too hasty in expecting results.

Although Government officials remain tight-lipped on the names and number of people who will face charges, The Namibian has it on good authority that Sibalatani is on a list of at least five accused.

"There has been no communication to me.

I don't know where the case is now.

Since that time when the Deputy Prime Minister was dealing with it, I never heard anything from Government," Sibalatani told The Namibian yesterday.

Sibalatani said the matter had not come up for discussion on his council's agenda either.

"If they don't give it to me [information], I can't hunt for it.

I will just have to wait for it to come," he said.

CABINET IN DARK Cabinet Secretary Frans Kapofi, who set the ball rolling in investigating the food scandal, told The Namibian on enquiry that since approving the investigation report in July, Cabinet had not received any feedback on what was stalling the implementation of its directive to act against those it found guilty of gross negligence.

"These people resort under a Ministry.

It is very clear that everything has been done from the Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet.

The Ministry now has to be decisive.

If there is a problem charging the people then they must say so," said Kapofi.

"Cabinet would be interested to know what action has been taken.

It is now a question of execution.

There will be no relenting.

If they are unable to do so [charge the officials], I hope they will report to Cabinet why they can't do so".

In August, Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila instructed the Ministry of Regional and Local Government to charge those singled out in the report by mid-September.

In May, Kapofi, acting on a tip-off, travelled to Katima Mulilo to witness first-hand in the company of the local news media how mice and other rodents were left to attack thousands of bags of maize meal in a military warehouse instead of it having been delivered to needy drought and flood victims.

All the food was later destroyed, having exceeded its shelf-life.

A team appointed by the Prime Minister's office was quick to investigate and make recommendations to Cabinet.


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