Fisheries scandal dampens election victory
Publish date: 02 December 2019
Issue Number: 852
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
The sixth multiparty elections since Namibia’s independence has seen President Hage Geingob and his ruling Swapo retain power albeit under an enormous corruption cloud, notes Legalbrief. An ailing economy, devastating drought and the biggest graft scandal in its history weighed on support for Geingob. His party received 56% of the votes for the National Assembly – significantly less than the 80% at the last poll. Al Jazeera reports that independent candidate Itula Panduleni Filemon Bango finished second, with just more than 29% of the vote. The Guardian reports that Itula made history as the first independent candidate for the presidency, though he retained his ruling party membership. The leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, came in third with 5.3%. In the legislative vote to choose 96 members of Parliament, the ruling party lost its two-thirds majority after it secured 63 seats, down from 77, while the official opposition party, Venaani’s Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), will hold 16 seats, improving from its 2014 total of five. 'I am humbled and commit to serve the Namibian nation with more passion and utmost dedication, to bring tangible improvements in the lives of our citizens,' Geingob said (before the results were announced).
The election was carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner, the Commonwealth observers who were deployed to the country have noted. However, a report on the IoL site notes that they noted that the processing of voters was slow, ‘resulting in an arduous polling experience for many voters, with lengthy queues and voting extending well beyond the close of polls. Zambia’s former Attorney-General Musa Mwenye called on the Election Commission of Namibia, political parties, civil society and other electoral stakeholders to engage in post-election, inclusive dialogue on how to resolve the issue of the lack of a verifiable paper trail ahead of future elections. He also stressed the need to invest more in voter education.
Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit has revealed how it exposed the corruption in the fishing industry which has implicated former Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhard Esau as well as Geingob's personal lawyer, Sisa Namandje. Posing as Chinese investors, journalists attempted to enter the Namibian fishing industry to acquire highly lucrative fishing quotas for a proposed joint-venture with Namibian fishing company Omualu. During the investigation, Esau requested a donation of $200 000 from the Chinese ‘investors’ for Swapo ahead of the poll. Filmed by hidden cameras, Esau can also be seen accepting an iPhone from Al Jazeera's reporters. Under the instructions of Omualu's managing director Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo, the donation was to be laundered to the Swapo party, under the guise of a foreign investment in a real-estate. The donation was to be channelled through the trust account of Sisa Namandje, who has been the personal lawyer of all Namibian Presidents since the country's independence in 1990. ‘You guys must be careful speaking to people about paying the Minister,’ Namandje told the undercover reporters. As they negotiated a partnership with Omualu, they were asked to make a $500 000 payment and give a 20% share of the joint-venture to Mike Nghipunya, CEO of the state-run fishing company Fishcor. In response to the investigation, Kadhila-Amoomo told The Namibian newspaper that he knew from the start the undercover reporters were ‘fake businessmen’. ‘I played along … in order to confirm my suspicions,’ he said. The so-called Fishrot Files, published two weeks ago by Wikileaks, comprised e-mails, memos, PowerPoint presentations, company financial records, photos and videos, and show how Samherji, one of Iceland's largest fishing companies, colluded with senior political and business figures in Namibia to gain preferential access to the country's lucrative fishing grounds.
Two high-profile SA lawyers who are representing the accused in the fishing matter have been released after they were ordered to pay fines for immigration-related charges. Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert who have previously represented former President Jacob Zuma, were ordered to pay fines of US$700 after they pleaded guilty in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court to contravening the Namibia Immigration Control Act. A report on the News24 site notes that they pleaded guilty to the first count of conducting business in Namibia without a proper work permit and a second count of furnishing false information to an immigration officer. They were in the country to defend Esau Shanghala and the four other suspects in the fishing quota scandal. A TimesLIVE report notes that the lawyers were ordered to find their own way back to the Hosea Kutako International Airport to catch the next flight back to SA.
In other developments, a freelance journalist with the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) has been dismissed for participating in a television panel discussion on the 'Fishrot' scandal. Vita Angula confirmed that the agency terminated his contract last Tuesday. The Namibian reports that he was informed that he had risked compromising Nampa's editorial policy stance and harming its reputation. ‘I tried being objective with my views on the matter and one of the things I said was labeling it as what it is, corruption,’ Angula said.