VVIPs ditch Etotha Carnival

President Nangolo Mbumba and vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
…despite hefty budget to accommodate Mbumba, Nandi-Ndaitwah

President Nangolo Mbumba and vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah failed to attend the inaugural Etotha Carnival, despite a hefty VIP experience budgeted for them.

The event, held at the Kangonde Salt Pan in the Oshikoto region, started on Thursday and ends today.

The budget was reportedly close to N$4 million, according to sources (although this amount could not be confirmed), with a specific budget of about N$60 000 set aside for promotional materials, including outfits for politicians like Mbumba and Nandi-Ndaitwah and their spouses.

As per the event programme, Mbumba was expected to deliver the keynote address at the event’s official opening on Friday. Press secretary Alfredo Hengari yesterday confirmed that Mbumba did not attend the event because he had other pressing matters to attend to.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said she had to attend another event at Swakopmund at president Mbumba’s behest.

The carnival is hosted in collaboration with the Ondonga Traditional Authority and the Namibia Tourism Board as the traditional custodian of the identified area where it is held. In addition, the event is hosted with the support of other relevant stakeholders.

According to a source who attended the opening ceremony, the VIP area was poorly attended despite significant effort put into equipping the area, including tents imported from Botswana.

Environment, forestry and tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda denied the poor attendance of VIPs.

He said most VIPs attended the event and the photos circulating online were taken during the preparation stage before guests arrived.

Muyunda further said allegations that tax-payer money was wasted on the event are false.

“As far as we are concerned there is no money wastage as far as the event is concerned. These allegations are being spread by people who smear campaigns against this initiative.”

Muyunda added that the ministry will provide final expenditure costs after the event concludes today and a postmortem report is done.

Romeo Muyunda

The event, organised by the tourism ministry in collaboration with the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and the Ondonga Traditional Authority, has faced criticism, with some senior NTB executives describing it as a waste of money.

Last week, NTB spokesperson Flora Quest confirmed that the board sponsored the president and special delegates, saying it is not unusual for leaders to receive gifts.

“It is not out of the ordinary that corporate gifts are given to our leaders. NTB as a marketing arm of the government has in the past given corporate gifts to visiting journalists on familiarisation trips and at international trade fairs and road shows,” Quest said last week.

Quest yesterday referred questions to the ministry.

Meanwhile, tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said at the opening ceremony the event was a mere dream when a delegation, led by his deputy Heather Sibungo, visited Botswana and attended the Makgadikgadi Epic in 2022.

The initiative is modelled on the Makgadikgadi Epic.

He said the Etotha Carnival aims to improve local livelihoods by boosting economic activities and business opportunities, incentivising infrastructure investment, preserving the Kangonde Salt Pan and enhancing biodiversity conservation.

It also seeks to foster social cohesion among communities in Namibia, especially in the northern regions and beyond.

It is held under the theme, ‘Safeguarding the Jubilant Pans to Enhance the Tang for our Future Generation’.

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