News and Information

Food aid culprits to face charges
September 20, 2005


AT least five people face charges of misconduct for allowing 230 tonnes of drought aid food to rot in a warehouse at the M'pacha Military Base near Katima Mulilo.

The Office of the Prime Minister has instructed the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development to take disciplinary action against those singled out in a report on an investigation into the food debacle.

Although she declined to name the individuals alleged to have acted negligently, Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila told The Namibian yesterday that it was definitely time to act against those responsible.

Well-placed sources indicated to The Namibian that those accused include Caprivi Governor Bernard Sibalatani, who is also Chairperson of the Regional Emergency Management Unit (Remu) responsible for disaster management in the area, Caprivi Chief Regional Officer Raymond Matiti, Remu staff members and Caprivi Regional Councillors.

The report on the investigation highlighted gross negligence on the part of the Caprivi Regional Council Management and the whole of Remu in handling flood and drought relief food consignments.

Amathila told The Namibian that her office had instructed the Ministry of Regional Government to take action by September 15 against those singled out.

"It is up to the Ministry of Regional and Local Government to punish those involved.

He [the Minister] must act.

I hope he's acted.

There's no excuse to start [disciplinary action], he must start," Amathila said.

But Regional and Local Government Minister John Pandeni said yesterday that he still needed to consult the Office of the Prime Minister before taking any action.

He confirmed that he had received a letter instructing him to proceed on the matter but said his office was not yet in a position to do so.

"We are still consulting between the offices, we have not yet done anything.

There are still some certain issues we need to clear up," Pandeni said when approached by The Namibian.

He said he could also not confirm at this stage how many people faced disciplinary action.

The Ministry of Justice yesterday confirmed that the matter had been referred to it for advice.

"We have rendered advice and consultations with the Ministry are ongoing," said Special Advisor to the Attorney General Sacky Shangala.

The Namibian understands that those implicated in wrongdoing could be charged with negligence and dereliction of duty, and could even be made to pay for the losses suffered.

The wasted food is valued at more than N$40 000.

SHOCK FIND Government was shocked to learn in June that 18 400 bags of maize meal had not been distributed to needy people in the aftermath of last year's flood in the region, and had instead fallen prey to mice in the warehouse where it had been stored.

A truck driver delivering other food aid to the military warehouse alerted the Cabinet Secretariat to the rotting food.

After studying the investigators' report last month, Cabinet instructed the Office of the Prime Minister to single out those directly involved and that they should face consequences for their actions.

The Deputy Director of the Emergency Management Unit, Gabriel Kangowa, confirmed to The Namibian that all the maize meal had been burnt at Katima Mulilo last week.

It was no longer fit for human consumption.

'IN THE DARK' Contacted for comment yesterday, Sibalatani said he had not received any official communication from Government regarding the investigation, least of all that he was among those who could face charges of negligence.

He said since the investigation was launched to establish exactly what led to the food never being delivered, he had only learned the details from media reports.

"I haven't received anything.

No communication from the Office of the Prime Minister, neither the Ministry of Regional and Local Government.

I haven't seen the report or the findings.

I have only read hints of it from your newspaper," he said.

Sibalatani said he had been in Windhoek all of last week, but had not been informed of any progress made in the food investigation.

He said he would only react to reports of him being charged with misconduct once he had actually been informed of such and upon seeing the reasons for the charges.

Because of the damage caused by last year's floods and the poor rainfall this season, Caprivi has battled to produce even a meagre harvest and the Agriculture Ministry's Early Warning and Food Information Unit has warned that people could go hungry in that region.

Sibalatani said yesterday that rice donated by the Indian government, which arrived at the military warehouse at the time when the rotten food was discovered, had been delivered to needy people.


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