Namibia’s military-owned August 26 (Pty) Limited company and its National Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) have emerged as key players in continued violations of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea in the southern African nation.
A visit by NK News revealed that August 26 is currently using the North Korean company Mansudae Overseas Projects to construct a new headquarters for the NCIS in Windhoek.
The new double-story building, situated in a suburban area and constructed without any plans submitted to the local city council as required, was nearing completion during a visit to the site on Wednesday.
Conversations with two sub-contractors and the clear presence of North Korean workers on site confirmed that Namibia’s pledge to the UNSC in April this year to cut ties with North Korean companies is not being honored and that the work was being undertaken by Mansudae Overseas Projects.
Several eyewitnesses including neighbors confirmed that the North Koreans were using an adjacent house as sleeping quarters. The North Korean foreman, sporting a pair of Kim Jong Il-style over-sized sunglasses, refused to speak, claiming he didn’t understand English.
Moments earlier, he was observed giving instructions to a local sub-contractor, who later told NK News that he always communicated with the foreman “in English of course.”
Several North Koreans could also be seen working on the double-storied structure at Jaspers Street 4 in the Academia suburb, built in apparent defiance of local building codes.
A search at the local Deeds office established that August 26 had bought the property from Milka Mungunda, a sister of gender equality minister Marlene Mungunda, on March 17, 2015 for an amount of N$4.2 million (roughly USD$400,000 at the time).
Neighbors said the North Koreans had first constructed an extensive basement area before adding two stories on top of it. Objections to the Windhoek City Council by locals were simply brushed off, one of them said.
Mansudae Overseas Projects, the international division of the Mansudae Art Studio, is reported to have worked on projects in 17 countries, from Senegal to Egypt, and is said to have earned hundreds of millions building monuments across the globe.
The Namibian government announced in June that it would be cutting ties with MOP “for as long as the UN Security Council sanctions against the DPRK are in place.”
MOP, while not a sanctioned entity, has been involved in contracts in Africa and generates funds for the North Korean government.
This includes, among other things, the construction of a munitions factory at Leopard Valley in conjunction with KOMID, according to a recent UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report on North Korean sanctions. Such activities are in violation of UN resolutions.
August 26, so named for the day in 1966 when the first armed clashes broke out between former South African security forces and the now-ruling SWAPO party (South West Africa People’s Organization) guerilla forces, has long since been a topic of some controversy.
August 26 was created in 1999, when the Namibian government bought out the former Windhoeker Maschinen Fabrik, a privately-owned company specializing in building mine-protected vehicles.
Since then, it has grown into a company with at least eight sub-divisions, including arms sales, uniform and shoe manufacturing, trading and construction.
Under current MD Brigadier (ret.) James Auala, the former Procurement and Logistics Chief of the Namibian Defense Force (NDF), August 26 acquired several high-value construction projects, including a tender to build a new highway to nearby Okahandja.
It is also believed to be the main contractor for the new NDF HQ currently under construction in Windhoek, and is thought to have been the main contractor for the Oamites munition plant, which was completed in 2014 and lies some 45 kilometers south of the capital.
August 26, although a state-owned enterprise, has never published any annual report or financial statements. Auala was quoted in local press as saying the company did not receive any state subsidies and therefore was not required to make its books public.
A report tabled in parliament this week by Auditor-General Junius Kandjeke showed that the NDF was operating 16 bank accounts, including a trust account on behalf of August 26 held at the local Nedbank commercial bank.
August 26’s manager Josiah Kasheeta claimed that this was for the purpose of financing United Nations peace-keeping operations – despite the fact that the NDF has not participated in any UN peace-keeping operations since 2010.
Questions about the new NCIS building from the media amounted to “…a form of voluntary sabotage,” he told a local newspaper. He could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
August 26 is no stranger to controversial work. In 1999, it took over management of a diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the then-President Laurent Désiré Kabila “gave” the mine to Nujoma in appreciation of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola coming to his aid as Rwandan-backed rebels threatened to over-run Kinshasa.
As with the Oamites plant and the new NDF HQ, a veil of secrecy was pulled over the operation, in spite of it being partly funded by a N$25 million (about USD 300,000 at the time) loan from the Namibian government – a loan that was never repaid.
Although no independent confirmation in the DRC was possible, the diamond mine is believed to still be operated by August 26, an executive of an international mining supply company said, requesting anonymity.
The Namibian Ministry of International Cooperation and International Affairs maintains that there was nothing overtly military in nature in Mansudae’s activities.
The Namibian Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Scott did not respond to queries about whether Namibia planned to suspend military cooperation with North Korea.
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Additional reporting: Hamish Macdonald
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Featured Image: Heroes' Acre by Raymond June on 2010-10-31 11:48:05