Former Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) elections director John Nghishekwa is suing former Namibian Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) director general Philemon Malima over a failed N$7 million farming business deal.
The two men have been friends for over 54 years, and they were both trained as pastors at the same institution.
However, their friendship is now on the rocks after Nghishekwa accused Malima of failing to keep his word.
Nghishekwa sued Malima, who was the intelligence boss from 2015 to 2020, in September 2022.
The case is ongoing.
Nghishekwa alleges that he entered into a verbal partnership agreement with Malima in 2007 to establish a farming business.
Deed records seen by The Namibian show that Malima bought portions 9 and 1 of farm Otjombindi No 234 for N$3 million on 24 June 2005 from Christiaan and Christina Liebenberg.
The farm, located in the Omaheke region and measuring a combined 7 500 hectares, is registered under Malima and his wife.
But Nghishekwa said their “verbal agreement” resolved to use the farm for cattle farming.
“The profits and losses in respect of the business would be borne by the parties to the ratio of 50%,” Nghishekwa said in court papers.
He said the verbal agreement allowed him to oversee the day-to-day management of the farming business.
Nghishekwa claims he was also tasked with appointing a farmworker.
But things started turning sour in 2012 over profits made from livestock sales.
Nghishekwa claims he involved lawyers after Malima locked him out of the farm and denied him access from December 2020.
MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
As part of the agreement, Nghishekwa said, he would buy 15 heifers for the farm for N$45 000 and N$162 000 worth of farming equipment.
He said he would pay Malima N$30 000 as an initial financial injection and N$10 000 per month from February 2008 to July 2010.
Nghishekwa claims he paid a farm employee a salary of N$1 230 per month from February 2007 to December 2008, and N$40 500 toward transport costs.
He also claims to have spent N$51 200 on general expenses, as well as N$6,2 million contributed through labour from October 2009 to December 2020.
Nghishekwa alleges that Malima has refused to pay him back.
He is represented by the law firm Fisher, Quarmby & Pfeifer, while Malima is represented by lawyer Sisa Namandje.
Nghishekwa’s lawyers proposed to Malima in May 2021 that they split the farm in two, according to a letter seen by The Namibian.
“Our client has since 2006 done all monetary contributions as was agreed, and has in addition invested further both substantial monetary terms as well as substantial amounts of time on the farm itself.
“As such, the livestock, infrastructure and equipment on the farm was built up with our client’s resources and efforts,” the letter reads.
They proposed that the farm, as well as equipment, implements and livestock be split between the parties equally.
“To this end, a proper headcount of the livestock will have to be undertaken and a list of all equipment and implements be compiled,” the letter said.
Namandje responded in June 2021, denying the existence of an agreement.
“Such a farm was funded in terms of the Agricultural Bank of Namibia’s affirmative action loan agreement to which only our client and his spouse are parties.
“Our client denies the oral partnership agreement referred to, and your client’s purported claim is a bad one in law,” Namandje said.
MEN OF THE CLOTH
Malima and Nghishekwa graduated from Oshigambo High School in 1971, and went on to train as Lutheran pastors at Otjimbingwe between 1972 and 1974.
While Malima would be named Namibia’s intelligence boss later in his career, his friend became a key figure in the RDP, serving in the central committee and as director of elections until he was fired from the party in 2021.
The business relationship between Malima and Nghishekwa was formed at a time when Swapo attacked RDP supporters.
In 2008, then president Hifikepunye Pohamba branded RDP members as “traitors” who were “comparable to the biblical Judas Iscariot”.
Court documents show that Malima submitted an affidavit to court last month, stating that he realised in August 2007 that his friend Nghishekwa, whom he considered a “brother”, would soon retire.
Malima then invited Nghishekwa to join him in farming.
Malima said that [Nghishekwa] could purchase his own stock and utilise a portion on my farm for his own account, provided that he, from time to time, contribute to the farm’s expenses”.
“I did this because of my friendship with him,” Malima said as well.
The former intelligence chief said Nghishekwa accepted his offer, but came back with a joint venture proposal.
Malima said he refused to sign that proposal.
“I told brother John (Nghishekwa) that we could not enter into an agreement on his proposed terms, because it spoke of him and I owning a farm.
“I told him we both have families, and the farm was not mine alone (but also my wife’s).
He said Nghishekwa was unhappy with the offer and came back asking to renegotiate it.
“At his own stance, he suggested moving on the farm, acquiring his livestock, contributing to the farm’s upkeep, and paying interim consideration (N$10 000 per month) for the use of the farm while awaiting the conclusion of a written agreement regulating the parties relationship,” Malima said.
He suggested that Nghishekwa brand his livestock to differentiate them from his own.
“John (Nghishekwa) agreed and bought 15 heifers. I later realised he never brought stock brands to identify his animals.”
Malima continued that in 2010 he realised it was legally impossible to enter into a contractual relationship with Nghishekwa.
Malima added: “The farmworkers did all the work. I attended every cattle auction from 2009 to 2015 with the money I took from Agribank.”
The case has been postponed to 22 August.
Nghishekwa declined to comment when approached by The Namibian yesterday.
Malima said he would not comment on the case, as he felt it would be premature to do so.
Malima, now 77, has served in various ministerial posts, including being the defence minister.
After Malima retired as a Cabinet minister, president Hage Geingob brought him back to head the national intelligence service as director general in 2015.
Malima was 69 at the time.
But cracks started showing between the two in 2017, including reports that Geingob wanted to fire Malima.
The Windhoek Observer reported that Namibian intelligence chief Malima allegedly told then attorney general Sacky Shanghala that Geingob was “protecting criminals involved in the SME Bank saga”.
Geingob allegedly wrote a letter to Malima asking him to resign or be fired.
The Observer article also alleged that Malima had on several occasions declined to authorise the carrying of millions of dollars in a case (known as contingency funds) whenever Geingob travelled abroad.
The government later denied these allegations, saying the relationship between Geingob and Malima was “cordial and solid”.