Swanu questions genocide legal bill

'Public purse under threat'

19 October 2017 | Politics

Namibia's oldest political party Swanu has joined the chorus of critics questioning government's decision to seek the advice of United Kingdom-based lawyers on its genocide claim against Germany.

The Namibian government is currently negotiating with its German counterpart on how the latter must make amends to the 1904-08 Nama and OvaHerero genocide.

Namibia's special envoy Zed Ngavirue yesterday could not explain why the UK lawyers were enlisted.

“I was not the one to decide that. On the technical committee level we only indicated that we needed a peer review for the documents that we prepared,” Ngavirue said.

In September, Sacky Shanghala said as the attorney-general, he does not need to acquire any cabinet approval for this kind of decision.

“There is no requirement in the Namibian Constitution, whence I derive my powers and existence from, for a cabinet approval or consultation,” Shanghala recently told parliament.

He further confirmed a Namibian lawyer based in the UK, Anna Uukelo, had been paid N$16 million.

Three European advocates were paid N$14 million, N$385 401 and N$816 574.

In a statement in parliament, Swanu Member of Parliament (MP) Usutuaije Maamberua said “it seems that the public purse is under threat”.

Maamberua asked why Namibia ignored “valuable” international bodies such as the United Nations instead of spending millions when the country is paddling through an economic crisis.

Repeating President Hage Geingob's rhetoric that Namibia is an offspring of the UN, Maamberua said it only makes sense for it to appeal to this body to lodge its genocide claims.

“It is natural that an important matter such as the genocide that the UN would in all probabilities be ready to render advice. Similarly, the UN could not have completed its decolonisation process over Namibia without having an opinion on the genocide issue,” he said.

Maamberua also demanded the government explain the value of the legal advice sought while the negotiating team under Ngavirue's leadership already compiled and presented the Namibia position paper to its German counterpart in July 2016.

“Besides the works of legal research, purportedly to determine whether Namibia had a case to demand reparation from Germany cost N$36 million. What would it cost the taxpayers at this rate, if we were to go all the way to litigation?” he ridiculed the expenditure.

He also questioned Shanghala's attitude while finance minister Calle Schlettwein stated that “the services were not sourced in compliance with the public procurement procedures.”

Maamberua also asked why the government is giving conflicting versions of payments made to the UK lawyers citing the N$11 million paid towards legal fees by the international relations ministry and N$36 million paid by Shanghala's office.

“If the payment was under the annual tender of the AG's office why is it the only item under social grants, in 2017/18 budget and nothing before or after?” Maamberua asked.

He further pointed out that “lines of accountabilities” in this case must be identified.



JEMIMA BEUKES