Big guns baying for a piece of prime land in Oshakati are waiting with baited breath to find out whether Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa will endorse Oshakati Town Council’s decision to award it to private developer Erastus ‘Chicco’ Shapumba.
Shaningwa, as the line minister, still has the final say in the matter once she had satisfied herself with all facts.
The dispute that has dragged on since 2014 ended on Thursday when the town council voted on the issue, with the six councillors split down the middle in their endorsement of two competing companies, BH properties – owned by businessman Ben Hauwanga and his wife, and Mouse Properties that belongs to Shapumba.
Mayor of Oshakati Katrina Shimbulu, who is also the chairperson of the council, broke the deadlock and settled the dispute by siding with the three councillors that voted for Shapumba.
Shimbulu said the council finally decided to bring to a close the issue that has over the past few years been a thorn in the side of the municipal management – ever since Erf 1342, the old Oshakati Open Market known as Omatala, was offered to the public in August 2014.
The rivalry over the property allegedly frustrated some of the applicant companies, including the only company that met the stipulated requirements, as it later withdrew. FAI Consortium reportedly concluded that the process had dragged on for too long and stepped aside.
The matter kept rotating between the council and the management and land committees of Oshakati Town Council, with no solution being found.
In a letter seen by New Era Weekend, dated September 1, 2015, addressed to Shimbulu, Shaningwa wrote that she “took note of the disturbing indecision of the council in the matter and the alleged possible conflict of interest on the part of members of the council.”
In the letter the minister asked for further information regarding the selection process of the companies to be made available to her to familiarise herself with the process.
She then advised Shimbulu: “In the event this project did not go through the formal process I recommend that the council restarts the process from the beginning, following the steps as outlined above.”
Instead of restarting the process, as recommended by the minister, the council then decided to go for two candidates who were ranked fifth and seventh in terms of the technical compliance required by the council.
Shimbulu could not explain why the council had to choose between BH Properties and Mouse Properties, maintaining that a decision had to be made in order for the matter to settle.
Who applied for ERF 1342?
Those who applied include FAI Consortium, a consortium of companies co-owned by business mogul Frans Aupa Indongo, Telecom Namibia’s retired chief executive officer (CEO) Frans Ndoroma and Debmarine Namibia CEO Otto Shikongo.
The land committee identified FAI as the successful candidate out of 11 applicants. It had the highest score as it met all general requirements stipulated by council.
Lynx Property Developer, owned by former MVA Fund CEO Jerry Mwadinohamba, was in second position after scoring 85.71 percent.
The only shortcoming of Lynx Property was the fact that it proposed to develop a 15-floor building, which is opposed to the two-storey restriction for buildings in Oshakati Business Zone.
Sun Investment came third, scoring 71 percent, but the application reportedly had shortcomings, one of them being the fact that it is a foreign-owned company.
Fourth was Swapo-owned Kalahari Holdings, which only obtained 57.13 percent on the scoresheet.
Mouse Properties was also rated at the fourth position, with 57.13 percent. Its shortcomings included not providing pedestrian safety features. The developer had also proposed a three-storey building.
NDI Holdings came fifth, scoring 42.84 percent, level with BH Properties, which made it to the top two candidates on the list of applicants.
The 16 000 square metre piece of prime land may also be underutilised should it be given to BH Properties, as it plans to only develop an area of 3 633 square metres, among other shortcomings.
Other applicants include Oshiwana Properties, which also scored 42.84 percent. Teclink Consultants scored 28.55 percent at the sixth position, while Sinco Investment and Water Power Trading shared the seventh position, scoring only 14.29 percent.
Chicco vs BH
Some members of council now claim Shapumba and Hauwanga “bought favours” from certain councillors for being the sponsors of the Totem Expo.
Last year Hauwanga was the main sponsor of the annual event, when his company and Ezzy Import and Export contributed N$150 000 towards it. This year, Shapumba joined hands with David Sheehama of Kambwa Trading to contribute N$110 000.
Critics, however, question why the land had to be sold to Shapumba, who already has over 12 business erven in Oshakati. The 12 erven do not include numerous plots in residential areas and two other erven – 1341 and 1345 located near Omatala.
It is alleged that Shapumba has already sold the two abovementioned erven to Sun Investment for N$30 million. Shimbulu, however, maintains that Shapumba might have numerous plots in Oshakati, but the Omatala erven were the first ever allocated to him by the council.
“I have been a member of the council for 20 years. I challenge anyone to come forward and mention any piece of land that was allocated to Chicco by the council. Whatever piece of land is owned by Chicco, he bought it from individuals and not the council,” Shimbulu explained.