Money, death and N$17m tender payment – The Namibian
THE police have closed an investigation into the disappearance of N$17 million that was transferred from late businessman Mathias ‘Kanana’ Kamati’s bank account four months after he died.
The money appears to be the proceeds of a N$66-million government tender involving politically connected businessman Laban Kandume, his associate Lukas ‘Mabena’ Nambala and president Hage Geingob’s chief of protocol, Leonard Iipumbu.
The cost of the tender rose from N$26 million in 2016 to N$66 million in 2021.
Kamati died on 2 June 2022. He was allegedly out with friends the previous night.
Deputy commissioner of police mortuaries Jooste Bandeka says his death is still under investigation.
He says the initial autopsy concluded that Kamati died of a heart attack, followed by bleeding on his brain.
This was deemed a natural death, but blood samples later indicated he could have overdosed on alcohol, prompting the investigation.
According to new information, N$17 million was mysteriously moved from his company, MK Capital Investment, four months after Kamati’s death.
The tender was for the debushing and ripping of 1 700 hectares in the Zambezi region.
The timing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform’s N$17 million payment to Kamati’s company for the tender is not clear.
According to some sources, Kamati told his friends shortly before he died that he was anticipating a handsome payment from the agriculture ministry.
Kamati’s brother and executor of his estate, Alexzander Shikemeni, opened a criminal case against Nambala – one of Kamati’s associates – on 26 October 2022 for the theft and fraud of N$17 million.
He withdrew the case 14 days later after reaching agreements with Kandume and Nambala.
“Funds belonged to the joint venture for the project, not to an individual,” Nambala said this week.
He had rights to transact on MK Capital’s account, because his house was used as collateral for the project.
Nambala confirmed having provided collateral for the project. He also provided The Namibian with an MK Capital resolution, giving him sole signatory rights to the company’s bank account while removing Kamati.
The document bears a Bank Windhoek stamp dated 18 May 2022 – about two weeks before Kamati died.
Kamati’s relatives declined to comment.
The joint venture had since 2016 held a debushing tender with the agriculture ministry.
At the time of the initial tender award, Kamati faced allegations that his company was merely a front. He publicly denied those claims five years ago, insisting that his company would carry out the work, Namibian Sun reported.
Kandume told The Namibian this year that his company was subcontracted to work on the project. He said about N$62 million of the N$66 million went to him as the subcontractor.
State House chief of protocol Iipumbu’s Okatambo Investments was a 49% partner in the tender with Kamati’s MK Capital.
That contract began before Iipumbu retired as Agribank chief executive to become the president’s chief of protocol. Iipumbu declined to comment.
“I don’t know what you want to write. I will only comment after I have seen what you have written,” he recently said.
Tender number F1/18/1-2/2016 was for the debushing and ripping of 1 700 hectares at Katima farm at the Liselo green scheme irrigation project in the Zambezi region.
Liselo is the same area in which Swapo’s Oshikoto regional coordinator, Armas Amukwiyu, wanted to set up a tobacco plantation.
Amukwiyu’s business partner, businessman Vaino Nghipondoka, was also paid from the money that came from Kamati’s company.
The information trail shows Nghipondoka received N$4 million of the N$17 million payout.
Nghipondoka said the payment was for the equipment he leased to the tender beneficiaries.
The Namibian’s investigation uncovered that N$16,8 million was transferred from Kamati’s MK Capital Investment’s Bank Windhoek account on 13 October 2022 – four months after the businessman died. At the time, Kamati was the company’s sole owner.
On 26 October, Kamati’s brother Alexzander Shikemeni lodged a criminal case of theft and fraud against Nambala, an associate of the late businessman.
Alexzander told police that Bank Windhoek had frozen MK Capital’s account after Kamati’s death so that creditors could be paid. The bank itself was owed N$244 000.
But the bank allegedly unfroze the account, paving the way for Nambala to transfer money from it.
In January, national police spokesperson deputy commissioner Kauna Shikwambi confirmed that a case of theft and fraud was being investigated under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
“A complaint was made and a case docket for investigation was registered in October 2022,” she said.
She confirmed that the police were investigating how suspects accessed the account to transfer money from it.
The initial reporting of the case led to the freezing of at least four bank accounts suspected of receiving transfers. But the accounts were unfrozen a fortnight later.
This coincided with Shikemeni’s withdrawal of the case on 9 November.
He told the police that Nambala and Kandume had agreed to return N$500 000 which was due to Kamati as his cut of the tender, for Kandume to return N$2,5 million, which MK Capital Investment owes in taxes, and for Kandume to pay N$132 000 owed to another subcontractor.
They also resolved that Kandume and Nambala take responsibility for any further cost or claims related to the tender.
Bank Windhoek declined to comment.
“The Banking Institutions Act prohibits engagement on any client matter due to the provision of client confidentiality. Furthermore, Bank Windhoek cannot divulge any information regarding this matter as it is sub judice, but can confirm that no staff members are involved in the matter under investigation,” spokesperson Samuel Linyondi recently said.
Three lawyers told The Namibian that the situation was abnormal or irregular. After a death, creditors – including business partners – should file claims with the executor of the estate, who should be working with the Master of the High Court.
Kamati’s debushing project was supposed to cost N$26 million, but it ended up costing N$66 million by 2021 because of four changes to the contract, called ‘variation orders’.
These changes usually do not cost much, but sources say the escalations were suspicious.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko says the first variation order of January 2018 added N$7,4 million for ‘explosives and land disputes’.
In November 2018, a N$13,3 million variation order was to remove ground stumps.
In September 2020 the government paid N$1,3 million for ‘standing time’.
And in October 2021, an order cost N$17,2 million for ‘additional work due to change in boundaries’.
The last order was controversial as the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) distanced itself from it.
CPBN spokesperson Johanna Kambala last month said the board discussed the matter on 24 February 2022.
“The board established that the work was already completed, thus the board has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter retrospectively,” she said.
She said the ministry was advised to seek treasury approval.
A source briefed about the process said the board decided to distance itself because the ministry did not follow procedures.
Kandume has a history of scoring lucrative contracts with the agriculture ministry.
Last year The Namibian reported that Kandume is a beneficiary of government contracts worth over N$700 million in 10 years. t
*This article has been produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit. Contact us from your secure email at [email protected]