Geingob 'oblivious' to corruption

Analysts – shaken by the president’s insistence that corruption is not systemic in the country but a mere perception – say it was actually this endemic corruption that cost Geingob and Swapo votes a fortnight ago.

09 December 2019 | Government

If President Hage Geingob does not realise how endemic corruption is in Namibia and what role it played in the humiliation decline of his and Swapo's support in last month's elections, he is grossly oblivious, analysts said over the weekend. Geingob, in his last address of the year to his cabinet on Friday, said corruption was not systemic in Namibia.

His remark came as two of his former ministers remain behind bars over allegations of corruption, while another was convicted of a similar offence in July this year.

Former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau are battling for bail after they were arrested for allegedly receiving kickbacks for fishing quotas.

Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was convicted in July for corruptly removing people from a public housing allocation list and replacing them with her relatives. Following the denialist stance on Friday, analysts accused Geingob of “burying his head in the sand” for saying that corruption is not systemic but rather a perception.

The president on Friday said the actions of a few corrupt officials had tainted the country's name – but this did not mean corruption was systemic in the country.

Geingob believes that the Fishrot scandal, which implicated two of his cabinet ministers who have since resigned and arrested, and other senior officials in the fisheries sector, was a wakeup call.

He however insisted that Namibia was a law-abiding society that believed in processes, systems and institutions and therefore would allow those implicated to be tried in a court of law.

Geingob had previously been accused of using the “processes, systems and institutions” excuse to cover up his reactive approach to corruption.

“It is therefore important for public-service officials to emphasise that corruption in any form, e.g. kickbacks, or percentage commission for the amount of contracts, is unacceptable,” he said.

Political scientist Ndumba Kamwanyah is puzzled by Geingob's remarks, especially after his “humiliating win, he wants to go that way.”

Geingob's popularity in the recent presidential election tumbled from an impressive 87% in 2014 to a mere 56% last month.

According to Kamwanyah, this drastic decline in support for Geingob was because of the high levels of corruption plaguing the nation.

“By now he should have known that he is viewed as weak on corruption. Him saying that corruption is not systemic, especially in the aftermath of the Fishrot scandal, is further perpetuating the widely held perception that he is in bed with corruptors,” he said.

The Fishrot scandal involves an alleged N$150 million in bribes paid to Namibian politicians and officials by Icelandic seafood company Samherji for access to Namibia's fishing quota goldmine.

Others implicated are James Hatuikulipi, the former board chairperson of state fishing enterprise Fishcor; Ricardo Gustavo, who together with Hatuikulipi held senior management positions at Investec Asset Management Namibia); Fitty (Tamson) Hatuikulipi, James' cousin and Esau's son-in-law; and Pius Mwatelulo.

They are all behind bars at the moment.

“If anything, Fishrot is the tip of an iceberg. I think the evidence that corruption in Namibia is [rife] and systemic is stronger that his conclusion. Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), Mass Housing, Offshore Development, SME Bank, Kora, Social Security, Fishrot, GIPF, genocide UK money, and all the fraudulent tenders are strong evidence for anyone to conclude that we have a corruption problem. It does not help the cause to fight corruption when the president minimises it or trying to come up with excuses,” said Kamwanyah.

Meanwhile, political analysts Frederico Links said the president's speech's proved that he was out of touch with the realities of the country's serious governance weaknesses.

“For someone who has two people from his cabinet implicated, his argument is really interesting. The proportion of his cabinet ministers involved is too big for him to say this. He himself in the past had to ask some of his cabinet ministers to explain themselves in the face of corruption allegations,” said Links.

Links added that Geingob's speech was clearly political talk aimed at his party members and supporters, but the general population would not be swayed by it.

“Namibians are now beyond a point where they take his word for it,” he said.

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