Katutura constituency councillor Vezemba Rodman Katjaimo is working around the clock to ensure the monies Namibians paid for the failed trip to Birmingham, England, to attend the just-ended Commonwealth Games is returned.
The games ended yesterday. Masterminded by Katjaimo, 198 religious sport fans were asked to pay N$65 000 each to attend the sporting feast.
The payment catered for accommodation, air tickets and pocket money.
At least N$12.9 million was collected in the process.
The quadrennial international multi-sport event brought together top athletes from former British colonies at the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham, England to showcase their talents.
Namibia was represented.
The trip never took place, after immigration officials and security agencies, local and international threw a monumental spanner in the works.
Katjaimo struck an optimistic tone, saying they are in contact with travel agencies Satguru and Trip Travel, through which they bought flight tickets, to secure refunds.
The same goes for accommodation.
“We are working around the clock to secure those refunds. This has been communicated to the affected individuals. People have no qualms about receiving their refunds,” Katjaimo said on Monday.
Due to the complexity of the matter, Katjaimo has enlisted the services of lawyer Mekumbu Tjiteere of Weder, Kauta & Hoveka Inc to ensure the funds are reimbursed without delay.
Tjiteere was conservative.
“Things were paid. But the people did not go,” the lawyer said.
According to him, his client will only pronounce himself on the specifics after the travel agencies respond.
“He [Katjaimo] can only respond when he gets a definite response from the travel agencies. For now, he cannot say when a refund can be expected or how much it is,” said Tjiteere.
Katjaimo will also explore different avenues for recourse, including the legal route.
Inside the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) corridors – Katjaimo’s political home – talk is rife that its leader, McHenry Venaani has been treating the councillor with kid gloves.
Katjaimo is seen as one of Venaani’s blue-eyed boys.
Some even go further, alleging that Venaani might have benefited from the arrangement.
Contacted on Saturday, the career politician dismissed the allegations, saying the trip was neither sanctioned or endorsed by PDM.
“You want to throw us under the bus? The party does not give any position because it is not involved. We can’t have a position. We can only investigate what our councillor did. You can’t make it a PDM matter,” he said.
Reminded that Katjaimo occupies the constituency office on a PDM ticket, Venaani said: “I don’t have the material facts to make an informed decision.”
He hastened to say PDM’s internal investigation was underway into the veracity of the claims.
“We can only make any commentary when we have the material facts,” Venaani said, conceding that PDM is concerned by reputational damage the issue may have on their brand.
“We would not have put up an investigation if we were not concerned,” he said.
Namibians’ dreams to watch their stars, among them sprint sensation, Christine Mboma, were dashed.
This was after a group comprising the first 21 people boarded the plane on 26 July, with Birmingham the only destination in the minds.
Their journey was short-lived after hitting turbulence in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after allegedly failing to provide sufficient evidence that the travelling party would return to Namibia.
They were told they did not have the requisite documentation and background to attend an event of the Commonwealth Games’ stature.
In the eyes of the officials, the Birmingham Games were simply a decoy, the ultimate reason for their journey was to claim asylum upon entering Great Britain.
Another red flag was that no bookings for accommodation in England were made for that group.
Now, the Commonwealth Games are over. The group of 198 watched from television sets across Namibia and not from the pavilions of the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham.
While the group has laid a complaint against Katjaimo with the Namibian Police, no criminal case has been opened over possible money laundering and embezzlement.
Katjaimo has also written to the police, explaining his side of the story.
It is also alleged that Katjaimo recently bought a Toyota Fortuner and a bull for N$70 000 at a recent auction, purportedly with funds that can be traced back to the Birmingham scheme.
Katjaimo has vehemently denied this.