THREE government officials have been linked to a controversial N$50 million lithium mining deal that has seen their friends and relatives get rich off the mineral that powers the world’s green economy.
Lithium is at the center of a global fight because it is used to create batteries for electric cars.
To combat climate change, more and more countries are requiring automakers to produce electric vehicles, leading to a sharp rise in the price of minerals dominated by China.
In the latest scandal to engulf the Ministry of Mines and Energy, three officials are accused of playing a role in ousting businessman Jacobus de Klerk from claims to a mine near Uis in Omaruru and handing control of the rich deposits to Chinese-owned Xinfeng Investments. .
The three officials linked to the deal are Raphael “Ralph” Muyamba, a former technical assistant to the minister of mines, Timothy Mashuna, a historian at the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The third official is Ndili Benyamen, a geologist at the Ministry of Mines and a friend of Mashuna.
De Klerk spent seven months in hospital recovering from a car accident. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and says he was tricked into giving up his demands while he received treatment.
Officials are suspected of using their relatives and associates to file mining claims in areas with high-value minerals, particularly where there is interest from foreign mining companies.
These claims mainly relate to those that are about to expire and in which little or no significant exploration is being done.
Some government officials are suspected of sharing information with these companies to secure such rights.
Muyamba resigned last week amid new revelations about the deal.
This week, Mines Minister Tom Alvindo reported him to the Anti-Corruption Commission and called a media briefing to distance himself from the saga.
Xinfeng bought the mine license for 50 million national dollars.
In the process, Muyamba’s cousin, Peter Shifwaku, received a payment of N18 million in July, which appears to be related to this lithium deal.
The payment was made through his company, Orange River Mining.
Court documents show Shifwaku agreed to sell 100% of Orange River Mining to a Chinese company for 50 million national dollars on June 23.
The Chinese company also agreed to pay Shifwaku N$6 million after the deal was signed.
In the same month, Shifwaku Mining Company splurged on eight cars – a Ford Ranger worth N$1.1 million, a Volkswagen Amarok worth N$933,400, a top-of-the-range Toyota Hilux Legend worth N$819,000, three Volkswagen Tiguans worth N$639,900 each , and two other Toyota Hilux Legends worth approximately 500,000 national dollars.
Bank statements seen by The Namibian show that payments between N50,000 and N400,000 were transferred to people believed to be relatives of Muyamba.
As Alvindo’s advisor, Muyamba held an influential position.
“If my cousin is benefiting and earning income from it, what can I do?” Muyamba said last year.
“He is my cousin. The law does not say that if you work in a ministry, your cousin should not benefit.”
“The law is very clear that I, my wife and children cannot benefit. I don’t have a wife. My children are not the beneficiaries of these mineral rights,” Muyamba told The Namibian last week.
He said his brother Joseph Muyamba has been mining for more than eight years. ROBBERY’
Last year, de Klerk told The Namibian that his business partners cheated him out of Karlowa Mineral Resources while he was in hospital recovering from head injuries caused by a car accident.
He said his associate Issac Shombe introduced him to Mashuna, Benjamin and Thomas Alpheus.
“Thomas pretended to answer with all the connections. He introduced me to Mashuna and Ndili (Benyamen). I had no idea it was a scam,” he said.
In 2016, he spent about nine months in the hospital.
It was then that Mashuna, Benjamin and his wife Albertina Ekanjo reportedly removed him from the company and took responsibility for the mining claims.
Karlowa Mineral Resources’ registration document names Ekanjo, Mashuna and the late businessman Barnabas Ugwanga. It was at this time that he claims he was removed from Karlowa Mineral Resources’ documents as both a shareholder and a director.
As a result, it lost its zinc, tantalum and lithium mining claims.
The lawsuits were allegedly transferred to a new entity called the Karlov Mining Enterprise.
Mashuna is the sole director of this entity, the company’s registration documents show that he is a co-owner along with Emmanuel Shopala Iipanda, Hosea Isaac Shombe and Thomas Alpheus.
Alfey hung up when contacted for comment yesterday.
Records show that the four at one point served as directors of Karlowa Mineral Resources alongside Ekanjo and De Klerk.
Benjamin confirmed his acquaintance with De Klerk, but denied any involvement of his wife.
“My wife has never been involved in a company with such names. She never specialized in mining, plus Jaco doesn’t know my wife. My wife has never started a mining company,” he said.
When shown the registration document, he said he knew nothing about the company he was accused of using his wife’s name without her consent.
“I work in a laboratory as a geologist. . . but I don’t work with mining rights,” Benjamin said.
He suspects that De Klerk has a problem with him because of his closeness to Mashuna.
“Take Mashunya. He can explain their business,” Benjamin said.
While in hospital, De Klerk’s mining claims expired and were not renewed.
Mines CEO Simeon Negumbo told The Namibian in February 2021 that De Klerk had four mining rights that he held between November 10, 2013 and November 9, 2015.
He confirmed that these claims had been awarded to Karlowa Mining Enterprise because De Klerk had not pursued them.
De Klerk says he was in the hospital and couldn’t do it.
“After his mining claims expired, the Department did not receive a renewal application(s) from the complainant until October 13, 2020, when the complainant reapplied for the said claims.”
Negumbo said an internal investigation found no substantial evidence linking Benjamin to any wrongdoing.
“Albertina Ekanjo, wife of Benjamin. She does not work for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and we have no jurisdiction over her.
“The ministry has not received any prima facie evidence from De Klerk that Benjamin was involved in these allegations. Therefore, the ministry cannot take any disciplinary action against him under the Civil Servant Code of Conduct,” he said.
CHAMBER OF BED
New information about how the lithium mine was founded points to many flaws in the licensing process, from the granting of exploration rights to poor environmental protections and possibly fraudulent business registration.
Investigations in Namibia have revealed that last year the ministry launched an investigation against officials in the geology and minerals departments over allegations of fraud, misappropriation of mineral claims and extortion. The Namibian Chamber of Mines is concerned about the N50 million mining scandal.
In an interview with The Namibian on Friday, the chief executive officer of the chamber, Weston Malango, said the minister’s statement did not improve the image of the mining industry.
“It doesn’t help. It hurts the image of our mining industry, especially since rumors are circulating around the regulator, the minister himself,” he said.
He urged the minister to look into the scandal and clear the name of the country and the industry.
“Namibia as an attractive mining and exploration investment destination is tarnished,” he said.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW
Xinfeng, the company that now owns the lithium mine, is gaining a reputation for being on the wrong side of the law in Namibia.
Alweendo announced last week that it had terminated the lithium ore export company because the company failed to meet its legal obligations to process the mineral in Namibia. The company claimed the 54,000 tonnes exported to China were test samples, he said.
As the company imported 80 Chinese tippers to transport ore to the port, doubts have been raised as to whether the company has any intention of building a processing plant in Namibia.
In April, The Namibian newspaper reported that mining commissioner Shivolo halted Xingfeng’s exploration after the company began mining without an environmental certificate.