President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob’s link to a prospective Russian investor named as Rashid Sardarov has sparked a backlash in Botswana’s neighbour to the west after it emerged that Geingob invited Masisi to meet Sardarov in Windhoek.
According to media reports, Masisi recently travelled to Namibia to discuss the possibility of working together in a N3.5 billion Atlantic Ocean water desalination project. Namibians took to social media in anger at what they called connivance of the two leaders with the Russian billionaire after The Namibian newspaper broke the news last week.
Namibians said the relationship of the two presidents has potential to breed corruption after it emerged that Geingob hosted the Russian at the State House in Windhoek. They were concerned that investigations into the killing of four Namibians by an anti-poaching unit of the Botswana Defence Force in Botswana’s Chobe enclave last year could amount to merely going through the drills in the face of the two men’s personal goals.
A spokesperson of the Namibian president has confirmed the presence of the Russian investor in the country at the time while President Masisi’s office clammed up when approached about the issue.
“I knew something was up when all of sudden our boss is a friend with Masisi,” Livinia Hakwenye wrote on Facebook. “I wonder how much are they getting from that multi-billion deal. African leaders are the downfall of Africa. Just show them few coins they can do anything.”
Another Namibian, Tuvangapi Puleinge, asked why the nation was told that Masisi was on a one-day state visit to their country when the Botswana leader was on a personal jaunt to discuss a business deal with Geingob. Hendrick Awaseb summed up Masisi’s visit as “Mafia business”. Festus Seven commented: “No wonder they diverted the attention on the BDF shooting, the two leaders have found an investor.”
A spokesman at the Namibian State House, Alfredo Hengari, has since confirmed to The Namibian newspaper that Sardarov is a prospective investor in the desalination project and disclosed that he made a presentation to Geingob and Masisi at the State House.
“The two presidents did not discuss any offer for desalination but listened in all transparency to a presentation in the presence of ministers and government officials, which is very normal in the course of investment attraction and infrastructure development, especially at a time when governments are leveraging public-private partnerships for development,” Hengari was quoted by The Namibian as saying.
However, little is being revealed closer to home. The Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, told The Botswana Gazette that he cannot comment on what people say on social media because this will never stop. “What people say on social media platforms will never stop,” Leagajang said. “So we cannot respond to that.”