Namibia: Geingob Defends Billionaire Ties On National Radio

President Hage Geingob went on national radio this week to defend his meeting with Mexican billionaire Alberto Baillères, two months after he told the media that it was none of their business.

He called in on Monday in response to a comment made by a caller on the ‘People’s Parliament’, a Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) phone-in programme where listeners call in with their concerns and opinions about any issue.

“I would like to comment on the first caller about Erindi game reserve. Erindi and all other businesses are handled by ministers. As I said, don’t come with business plans to State House,” the president added.

Geingob wanted to hang up after explaining, but NBC radio presenter Leevy-Lee Abraham said a previous concerned caller made a comment on the billionaire, as well as the proponents of the phosphate mining.

“The caller was also saying that the billionaire paid a courtesy call on the Office of the President, and so too were the proponents of phosphate mining,” Abraham said.

“They didn’t pay,” Geingob responded.

He said “phosphate mining was decided in 2013/2014. All I am saying to ministers is that investors want yes or no answers. Don’t sit on things for 10 years; tell a person yes or no so they can go somewhere else, that’s all I’m saying”.

“And this is my right to ask the ministers to take action, and not to sit on or frustrate potential investments,” Geingob added.

The president said business plans are discussed and decided by ministers, who then report to him, and people can thereafter pay a courtesy call on him.

The move by Geingob to call the national radio station comes two months after he shot down questions from reporters about his meeting with Baillères, who wants to buy Erindi for nearly N$2 billion.

Geingob was accused by the country’s biggest union, the National Union of Namibian Workers, of betraying the nation by approving the sale of Erindi to a foreigner, despite strong opposition to the deal.

In June this year, Geingob mentioned that Baillères had paid a courtesy call on him at State House to brief him about his intentions regarding Erindi.

Asked by reporters after that gathering why he had a closed-door meeting with Baillères, Geingob responded that it was “none of your business”.

Abraham told The Namibian yesterday that he welcomed the call from the president.

“I was equally surprised to hear the president on the line. When you are doing radio, there is a perception that political leaders are not listening,” he said.

Abraham said the show is open to all citizens, and should be used as a medium for people to voice their opinions.