THE Sam Nujoma Foundation wants to turn a plot it got from the Windhoek municipality free of charge into a property development, a few years after selling a portion of it for N$13 million.
The foundation, owned by Namibia’s founding president Sam Nujoma, placed newspaper adverts last month to call for companies to tender for the mixed development project, estimated to be worth more than N$50 million.
‘Mixed development’ generally refers to a project that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional or entertainment developments.
The building will be constructed on a portion of the 36 000-square metre land situated at the corner of Hosea Kutako Drive and Harvey Road in Windhoek North which was donated to the foundation in 2005. The advert called on companies which had successfully completed a four-storey development project in the last 10 years to submit bids.
It also stipulated that the contractor should be fully Namibian-owned, with previously disadvantaged owners holding at least 51% of shares.
“Personnel of contractors must not have more than three foreign nationals on site as the workforce must be overwhelmingly Namibian skilled, semi-skilled and labourers,” the foundation said.
The advert did not provide further details on what the development will include.
Nujoma has in the past been accused of not refusing projects that, in some cases, are pushed by people close to him for personal benefit.
The building will be prime property, especially since it will be near the new N$1 billion home affairs building that is still under construction.
The Namibian reported in 2015 that the home affairs ministry paid N$13 million to the Nujoma Foundation to buy a 2 000 square metre portion of the land it had received free of charge.
Former prime minister Nahas Angula – a member of the board of trustees of the foundation – told The Namibian last month that the foundation’s building plans had been in the pipeline for years.
Angula could only say that the building will house the office of the founding president, and potentially offer renting opportunities for “private people”.
“We hope that there will be a pan-African library or something like that, and maybe opportunities for private people,” he added. “The project is still developing in stages.”
Angula also divulged that the building will house businesses to support the foundation through the rent that will be paid.
The foundation’s decision to cash in on free land has been a controversial subject over the years.
In fact, the foundation was accused of holding on to the land and ignoring a council regulation which states that the municipality can either cancel an allocation or sell the property to the next applicant if the land is not developed within a five-year period.
The land that is currently being commercialised by the foundation was meant to be used for charitable institutions like schools, and was not allocated for business use.
However, Angula insisted that their decision to rent out parts of the new building to business people is part of the foundation’s efforts to manifest a Sam Nujoma building, while maintaining their mission to promote pan-Africanism and the general welfare of those of African descent.
“The land was given to the foundation for the very purpose that I stated, but unfortunately the foundation did not have money [at the time],” he stated.
He added that their past decision to sell a portion of the land to the government was, in fact, a charitable act.
“We sold to the government, so it was general public good. We could have gained more money if we sold it to the private sector,” he continued.
Businessman and Paragon Investment Holdings owner Desmond Amunyela corroborated these development plans.
“A percentage of the development will be for activities of the foundation, and a percentage will go to others – anyone who wishes to rent – for a steady stream of income [to the foundation],” he said.
Amunyela explained that this income was needed to support the operations of the foundation.
In 2013, The Namibian reported that then City of Windhoek property manager Elly Shipiki had said the land is not for business purposes, but for a school or similar charitable institution.
At the time, Shipiki explained that if the land was given to the foundation for charitable reasons, it should be used for its intended purposes, and nothing else.
“Otherwise, the foundation should apply for rezoning the property. But that land specifically is not meant for business, but for either a school or institutional properties,” the property manager said.
However, sources had said the foundation received permission from the city to sell two-thirds of the land, or lease it out for both offices and housing purposes in 2006.
The project is being led by Marley Tjitjo Architects, a company that has built a strong reputation for clinching Nujoma-related deals.
Marley Tjitjo Architects were involved in the construction of Nujoma’s retirement home which is estimated by the government to cost N$43 million.
Cathy Tjitemisa from Marley Tjitjo Architects declined to provide information on the cost of the project.
“We are asking people for their costs, why must I tell you the cost? Of course we have a cost in mind, but we are asking people their costs,” she said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, strategic executive of housing, property management and human settlements at the City of Windhoek, George Esterhuizen, said that the plan for a mixed development on the plot was news to him as the land allocation happened prior to his appointment to that office.
Esterhuizen said that in order to understand the specifics of the land being used for a mixed development, one would need to see the deed of transfer for that property and a council resolution to that effect.