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Defence misled education ministry on house for minister’s widow – News


The Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs allegedly misled the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture about needing the house given to the wife of a former minister for office space.

This is according to letters exchanged between executive director of defence and veterans affairs Wilhelmine Shivute and executive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp in August 2022.

The ministry gave Julia Pandeni, the widow of former housing minister John Pandeni, a newly renovated house.

The defence ministry has justified its decision, claiming the widow deserves it, because she is “a veteran of the Namibian liberation struggle”.

Documents, however, reveal that the ministry had a different stance when the house was reassigned from the education ministry.

“The defence ministry has identified a house [address] situated in Windhoek, currently assigned to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, and understands it’s not being utilised as it appears to be in a dilapidated state.

“The ministry is in urgent need of office space to accommodate its members. It is against this background that a humble request is made to your esteemed office to give permission for the above-mentioned house to be reallocated to the defence ministry by the Ministry of Works and Transport,” Shivute wrote to Steenkamp on 3 August 2022.

He added: “Kindly note that the defence ministry will be responsible for renovations required . . .”

The house consists of two bedrooms, one bathroom, a garage, kitchen, living room, storeroom, two verandas, and two visitor’s areas.

The house sits on a larger state-owned plot spanning roughly 4 800 square metres.

Valuation estimates suggest that the market value of the 4 800 square metres, which includes six other houses, is between N$8,5 million and N$10 million.

MOVE REJECTED

Steenkamp wrote back to Shivute on 29 August 2022, declining the move.

“The renovation of the erf was already budgeted for by this ministry, and construction would commence any time from now, and further arrangements will be made to prevent vandalism on the property,” she said.

Steenkamp told Shivute the education ministry was facing a lack of accomodation to house foreign consultants and adequate office space for some of its directorates.

“Based on the above reasons, the ministry is unable to provide the permission you seek,” she wrote.

However, Steenkamp’s refusal fell on deaf ears, when Shivute wrote to works and transport executive director Esther Kaapanda on 9 August 2023 to say her ministry had renovated the property.

“The house was rehabilitated and renovated to a habitable standard by the defence ministry. Kindly be further informed that the ministry is facing challenges in housing liberation struggle veterans,” Shivute wrote.

She added: “It is against the above background that your ministry is engaged and requested that the said property be alienated to the sitting tenant, Julia Pandeni, who is a veteran and in dire need of accomodation.

“Once the aforementioned property is alienated, our ministry will purchase the house for the member,” Shivute wrote.

Sanet Steenkamp

ADAMANT

Julia Pandeni hails from Akani, a village located a kilometre away from Shivute’s village of Onaniki in the Tsandi constituency of the Omusati region.

She was married to John Pandeni, who died on 14 March 2008 in a government vehicle accident while travelling with work when he was the minister of local and regional government. He was 57.

The former minister left behind his wife and four children, who, according to sources lived in a rented home at the time.

The Pandeni family allegedly also lived in government housing when he was governor of Khomas.

Julia Pandeni did not respond to a range of questions sent to her by The Namibian two weeks ago.

“We have been staying in this house for a long time. But I’m busy, and I do not have time to speak any more,” she has said.

Yesterday, defence ministry spokesperson Petrus Shilumbu refused to comment on the matter.

“That’s our official comment and we are not going to comment further on this issue.

“The defence ministry is mandated to address the socio-economic plight of veterans, of which the housing programme is just one of the benefits implemented to achieve that.

“The veteran concerned does not own a house, nor hold a title deed in Namibia which is the primary requirement of the housing programme. Her relationship with the late minister is, therefore, inconsequential in this matter,” he said two weeks ago.

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