The latest WikiLeaks revelations have Namibia in the spotlight. Published reports say Namibia has been defaulting on possibly billions of dollars in loans from China. As a result, Namibia is reportedly allowing thousands of Chinese families to settle in the country.
The reports are appearing this week in Namibian newspapers.
In Windhoek, Phil ya Nangoloh, head of the Namibian human rights group NAMRIGHTS, says, “What is being reported is that 5,000 Chinese families…are now in Namibia as a repayment of a Chinese loan – a loan obtained from the government of the People’s Republic of China. And this is not so much a surprise to us. It is a shock.”
He says the government has not informed the Namibian people about the loans, which reportedly go as far back as 2003, under the presidency of Sam Nujoma.
“Our own political leaders have been maintaining intimate contacts with Chinese government officials,” he says.
How much? Who’s talking?
The amount of the loan or loans is unclear, but ya Nangoloh says, “We believe that the quantum is in the billions. Some people say it might be as much as (US)$ 8 billion.”
Ties between Namibia and China go back to the early days of Namibian independence in 1990.
Ya Nangolah says the WikiLeaks reports center on messages between French and Togolese business lawyers, some with Chinese clients, and Josiah Rosenblatt, a U.S. diplomat in Paris.
“We have been seeing very serious problems already with this. First of all, we recognize the right of all persons to self-determination and also to control their own resources, including natural resources. Second, the Chinese business people, investors as they are being called here, are notorious in violating Namibian labor laws. They have a bad reputation here in Namibia for violating the rights of Namibians,” he says.
But ya Nangoloh is quick to add, “We are not, by any means, encouraging xenophobia against any foreigners and this includes Chinese. The blame must go to our own government leaders, who invited the Chinese to come to Namibia.”
He says while the Namibian government has now acknowledged the Chinese loans, it has not released their amount. It does say it has been repaying them.