Drought relief items worth N$600 000 stolen in Ohangwena

The Ohangwena region’s disaster risk management unit has lost more than N$600 000 worth of cooking oil, and other items from its warehouse due to theft.

Seven employees were arrested on Friday in connection with the incident.

The Export Processing Zone (EPZ) warehouse, which is based at Oshikango, was used to store items aimed at improving the lives of those affected by disasters like floods and drought.

A number of employees from the regional council disaster risk management unit were arrested and are currently in police custody at Oshikango.

Ohangwena region crime investigations coordinator deputy commissioner Zacharias Amakali said the theft occurred between 29 September and 12 December at a warehouse at Helao Nafidi.

It is alleged that the suspects unlawfully and intentionally gained entrance into the warehouse and removed the cooking oil meant for drought relief.

“This was discovered by two of the six employees of the regional council responsible for the relief programme while visiting the warehouse for the purpose of loading some food items,” Amakali said.

“As a result, there was a shortage in the quantity of the cooking oil compared to the quantity registered,” said Amakali.

The two employees discovered that the quantity of cooking oil had decreased despite no distribution taking place during the previous weeks and decided to count the oil.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the suspects might have used a key to unlock the door to the warehouse as there are no signs of forced entry.”

“The nature of the [stolen] items are 21 630 x 750 ml of cooking oil [and other items] valued at N$627 270 000,” he said.

Speaking to The Namibian, chief regional officer of the Ohangwena Regional Council Fillipus Shilongo confirmed the theft, but declined to comment on details, saying they are busy with investigations and a press release on the matter will be issued to the media in due course.

An employee of the council, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the theft was detected last month.

The source said the region’s management is not forthcoming with details.

“People are already talking. Today there was a disaster risk management [meeting] held at Eenhana, where the theft was discussed,” said the source.

The suspects made their first court appearance in the Ohangwena Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

They are Jeipo Hilongea (42), Nehemiah Shoovalwka (36) , Miina Uukule (38), Gerrie van Wyk (42) Fillemon Shikongo (44) and Simon Joseph (33).

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, Ohangwena governor Sebastian Ndeitunga confirmed the theft which he described as unfortunate seeing there are thousands of households, both at rural villages and urban towns of the region, who could use that food.

“People are hungry, people need food and to see that our officials who are trusted and tasked with the care and distribution of drought relief food decided to steal…” said Ndeitunga.

“It is a very disturbing incident, taking into account that relief food was meant for those who are disadvantaged. The incident was reported to my office by the regional management team through the office of the chairperson of the Ohangwena Regional Council, as well as the chief regional officer. I can confirm that when the matter was reported to me, five people were arrested and the police were busy with investigations. I was promised that the necessary arrangements to continue with food distribution will be made,” he said.

Ndeitunga revealed that about 48 000 households have been registered for drought relief food, however, only 16 000 stand to benefit as there is not enough food.

“It is no secret that people are really in need of food and support from the government. People are hungry.”

Households are usually provided with one 12,5kg bag of maize, a 750 litre bottle of cooking oil and two packs of soup per month as drought relief intervention, which many have complained is insufficient.

However, over the past year, some households in the region have not received any drought relief food.

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