THE head of the board of directors at Namibia’s national oil company has appeared in court to face charges of dealing drugs.
Jennifer Comalie was arrested at the company’s offices on Monday when intelligence officers acting on a tipoff allegedly found a consignment of drugs in her official vehicle, according to news reports.
On Tuesday she appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate Court on charges of dealing in ‘dangerous dependence-producing substances.’
A spokesperson for the Namibian police in the Khomas region, Silas Shipandeni, confirmed the arrest to VOA.
‘The contraband [was] discovered in her vehicle of which, amongst, others there was a discovery of 995 grams of cannabis of which one can call skunk, 10 grams of cocaine powder and 90 units of crack cocaine,’ Shipandeni said. He estimated that the total street value was N$50,000 (about $2,764).
A group of about 50 supporters gathered at the magistrate court on Tuesday to offer support to Comalie, whom many believe was set up as a result of a power struggle between her and the managing director of the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR).
NAMCOR, in partnership with Dutch oil giant Shell and Qatar Energy, recently announced a major oil discovery off the coast of Namibia.
NAMCOR owns a 10 percent stake in the joint venture, which may provide huge revenues for Namibia if drilling and production proceed.
A Namibian corporate leader and a friend to the accused, Twapewa Kadhikwa, was among those showing support for Comalie in court.
She told VOA she believes Comalie’s arrest is politically motivated by those with an interest in Namibia’s touted oil sector.
‘It’s obvious, it is not something you can put aside,’ said Kadhikwa. ‘So, to me as a corporate leader first, I know Jenny. Jenny does not use drugs. You understand the volume of drugs that was found in her car are for, like, a trader, you know? Not for a consumer.’
Kadhikwa said the arrest seems like a plot to discredit Comalie.
Responding to questions regarding Namibia’s emerging oil and gas industry, local political analyst Rakkel Andreas said the country should ensure it has the necessary governing structures in place to ensure that those in power do not line their pockets with money that could benefit the general public.
‘We are coming to learn that systemic corruption is a reality for the African continent, and a lot of times, this corruption is under the umbrella of legal frameworks,’ Andreas said. ‘So, I think in terms of making sure that we have infrastructure in place in making sure we don’t have loopholes that can be exploited to enable systemic corruption. I think that is the larger conversation.’
Comalie was released on bail on Tuesday. The inspector general of the Namibian police, Joseph Shikongo, has called for an investigation into the circumstances that led to her arrest and who tipped off police about the drugs allegedly found in her car.