ACC to investigates bribery claims at Mines Ministry

• By Vitalio Angula

‘THE Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) plans interview Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, to inquire as to whether he was aware that his technical advisor, Ralph Muyamba, is related to Peter Shifwaku, owner of Orange River Mining’, ACC spokesperson, Josefina Nghituwamata, informed Confidente in emailed responses regarding allegations of bribery, kickbacks, and stealing of Exclusive Prospecting License’s (EPL’s) that have engulfed the line Ministry of one of the biggest contributors to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the past few weeks.

Nghituwamata said the ACC would also ask Alweendo whether his office had taken any steps after becoming aware of the dubious awarding of the EPL to Orange River Mining which ultimately went to Xinfeng Investment, a Chinese owned entity represented locally by a certain Mr. Lee.

“Kindly note that the ACC is investigating the allegations of corrupt practices at the Ministry of Mines and Energy as reported to the commission on September 14 this year,” Nghituwamata informed Confidente.

“The charges of bribery will therefore be the focus of our investigation which also extends to the entire process that resulted in the awarding of the EPL to entities like Orange River Mining. The investigation aims at establishing whether there were other entities considered and as to how they were eliminated in favour of Orange River Mining,” Nghituwamata responded to questions asked by Confidente.

The spokesperson said that according to complaints received by the ACC, there were payments given to a staff member to ease the issuance of Mining and Exclusive Prospecting Licenses.

buy strattera online no prescription pharmacy

The Mines and Energy Ministry has been engulfed in a corruption storm that has dominated news headlines since local media broke the story two weeks ago.

Minister Tom Alweendo announced in a press release dated October 26 that he was releasing Mining Commissioner, Erasmus Shivolo from his duties that included Chairing the committee that allocates EPL’s to applicants interested in exploring and mining of minerals that include Lithium, Titanium, Copper, Zinc and other rare earth metals and minerals.

Shivolo has since been replaced by Issabella ChirChir as Mining Commissioner.

Asked for comment regarding his unceremonious removal from a position he had held for over 12 years, Shivolo directed Confidente to the Minister in charge.

“The Minister is the one who appointed me and he is the one who removed me so you better ask him that question,” Shivolo told Confidente.

According to documents in Confidente’s possession, the mining rights (ML43) in question initially belonged to Jacobus De Klerk.

De Klerk told Confidente, Ralph Muyamba, in league with Minister, Tom Alweendo and Erasmus Shivolo stole his mining rights and handed them over to Peter Shifwaku (owner of Orange River Mining), who is also Muyamba’s cousin.

Shifwaku subsequently sold it to a Chinese outfit, Xinfeng Investments for N$ 50 million.

Asked for comment regarding allegations made against him by De Klerk, Shifwaku referred Confidente to his lawyer.

“You people in the media have already drawn your own conclusions. I really can’t speak to you. Let me just refer you to my lawyer,” Shifwaku told Confidente.

Local representative for Xinfeng Mining, Lee could also not be reached for comment regarding the allegation levelled against the company (Xinfeng) by Mr. De Klerk.

“Yes, they stole it with the aid of Ralph Muyamba inside advisor to Minister Alweendo. There is a small amount of Lithium on those claims’ maximum 300 parts per million. The Chinese paid N$ 50 million for it and N$ 5 million was spent on buying new cars. I paid for those claims in October 2021 and they were taken away illegally by Minister Alweendo,” De Klerk told Confidente.

De Klerk explains “how the scandal unfolded”

“A group of previously disadvantaged Namibians was (sic) having a lithium EPL called Karlowa project near Uis. When the EPL was approaching expiry, the owners filed a renewal application. However, Mr. Muyamba with the help of Erasmus Shivolo, the mining commissioner and Tom Alweendo, the then presidential aspirant laid an ambush against the renewal,” De Klerk alleged.

De Klerk further said, “He succeeded in terminating the lithium EPL with a view to giving it to a company which represents their interests. In the meantime, Orange River Mining had applied for an EPL over the same area. Just before they completed the theft of the EPL, Karlowa Mining Enterprises, the company from which the EPL was stolen opened a case in the High Court. The three thieves, Muyamba, Shivolo and Alweendo had to run throughout the night trying to settle out of court with the plaintiff so the case could be withdrawn to avoid embarrassing both the presidential aspirant and the mining commissioner.”

De Klerk further alleged that, “A South African crook” by the name, Deon Smith was to cough up funds needed for the out of court settlement, however Smith failed to deliver and Shivolo engaged Plan B, which included a Chinese company called Xinfeng Investments, a sister company to Salamis Investments. The MD of Xinfeng has a corrupt relationship with the mining commissioner and is currently the commissioner’s foremost cash cow.”

“When Shivolo approached Xinfeng to buy Karlowa EPL they did not hesitate and they immediately paid N$ 50 million to Orange River Mining and related entities. This is how Mr. Muyamba made a fortune. Shivolo got N$ 2 million out of the deal, part of the N$ 50 million was used for the settlement of the case out of court, the rest was shared between Muyamba, Alweendo and the like,” De Klerk further alleged.

Despite having their mining license cancelled, Confidente has it on good authority that Xinfeng continues to transport Lithium Ore from the mine to the harbour town of Walvis Bay for export.

To this effect Simon said the ministry will investigate reports of trucks seen transporting Ore even though the company no longer has export permits/rights to do so.

The Namibia Revenue Agency (NAMRA), the state agency charged with collecting taxes under the Export Levy Act, could not confirm to Confidente on whether or not Xinfeng is a registered taxpayer in Namibia, whether or not Xinfeng Investments has a valid permit to export lithium from Namibia.

NAMRA also refused to divulge information on the value of lithium ore that has been exported from Namibia by Xinfeng Investments and the total tonnage of lithium ore that has left Namibia through Xinfeng Investments.

“Please take note that in terms of relevant legislation, we are unable to respond to the following questions owing to confidentiality limitations,” Tonateni Shidhudhu, Manager of Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Engagements informed Confidente.

Andreas Simon, PRO at MME informed Confidente the value of exports which have been issued to Xinfeng total N$ 63 167 745.79 million.

At an export levy rate of 2% the state is supposed to receive at least N$ 1 263 354 million dollars in taxes from Xinfeng Investments.

buy clomiphene online no prescription pharmacy

According to Shidhudhu, non-compliance with import and export of raw materials more especially minerals is liable to a fine not exceeding N$ 8000 or to an amount equal to three times the value of goods in respect of which such offence was committed, whichever is the greater, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Namibia in recent years has drawn a lot of interest from international and local investors for rare earth mineral which are yet to be explored and mined.

The mineral scramble is however tainted with allegations of corruption, bribery, kickbacks and under-handed dealings often involving government officials who are accused of benefitting from state resources at the expense of legitimate business persons who have the resources and technical know-how to invest in the capital intensive industry of mining.