N$10m dates farm owners at a crossroads

By Hilary Mare

OWNERS of the biggest dates farm in Mariental, Octant dates farm which is valued at nearly N$10 million and employs in excess of 100 farmers during its harvest season, have fallen out casting a shadow of uncertainty on the future of the farm.

The farm which is located approximately 2km from Mariental, is owned by Octant Investment and used to be one of the country’s prime date exporters.

The owners, Somalian national Abdulkadir Saleh and his local partner, Swapo Ndume have counter accused each of acting in bad faith with Ndume this week confirming to Confidente that the relationship has reached breaking point and the only way forward is buying each other out.

Last year, Confidente reported that Saleh, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi’s Al Dahra dates farm at the Naute Dam in the //Karas region faced legal action after it emerged that he had been in conflict of interest by operating Edel dates farm and that he allegedly transferred unexplained funds to it from Al Dahra accounts.

Al Dahra is in a 50-50 joint venture with the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC), a government agency that promotes economic growth.

“He (Saleh) has been taking offshoot trees from our farm and selling them to Al Dahra without my knowledge and consent. He has even changed the bank account that we were joint signatories to one that he is the sole signatory. So I don’t have access to all those funds that he is making. When, I made him know that he can no longer do it, he started to threaten me saying that he will finish me off. I have informed the police and my lawyer (sic).

“I will never allow him anymore to sell company property for his own benefit,” said Ndume adding that their relationship can no longer be mended and he would prefer that Saleh buys him out.

Confidente understands that owing to the abandonment of the farm, hundreds of residents from Mariental have been flocking to the Edel dates farm every day to harvest dates. The farm retrenched all workers in July last year and has since faced rapid vandalism from the residents of the town.

Saleh owns 60 percent of Octant and the remaining 40 percent is owned by Ndume.

In response Saleh told Confidente that Ndume was being economical with the truth and was saying things that are not substantiated by facts.

He also said that he had sent Ndume’s lawyers several letters offering to buy Ndume out, but he had gotten a muted response.

“I am ready to buy him out and he is not responding. What must I do with him? On one hand he is engaging me sending me messages and on the other hand he is running to the media. If he has any accusation, let him prove only one. He is not being fair but making wild accusations without any proof,” Saleh explained before saying, “If he gives me a reasonable offer, I will buy him out.”

Saleh also said that Ndume took over the management of the farm since November 2018 and destroyed the farm.

“In July 2019 after he finished the harvest, he retrenched all the employees and appointed his nephew to be the guard at the farm. Since then all the pack houses, cable and infrastructure is destroyed and none functional. No water or irrigation for the trees and the trees are dying. Our creditors since then have not been paid and some of them are after us through the sheriff. Some of them are Intergrow, BDO, municipality of Mariental and Namwater,” he said.

Confidente has it on good authority that Ndume wants N$5 million to be bought out but Saleh is holding out for N$3.5 million.