Geingob was 'talked out of' firing ministers

15 November 2019 | Government

President Hage Geingob had written dismissal letters for ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau on Wednesday morning, but a high-level meeting that included Vice-president Nangolo Mbumba and Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa urged him to hold his horses, State House insiders have revealed.

The two ministers are caught in the web of an international probe which indicates that an Icelandic fishing company has paid Namibian officials N$150 million in bribes for fishing quotas in the last seven years.

Esau and Shanghala have denied any wrongdoing. Other people implicated in the WikiLeaks papers are James Hatuikulipi and his cousin Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi. Fitty is Esau's son-in-law, while James was appointed by Esau as board chairperson of state fishing company Fishcor.

Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya is also named in the documents released by an Icelandic whistleblower.

On Wednesday morning, President Geingob initially told officials in the presidency that the two ministers “had to go” and he had their dismissal letters signed and ready for delivery, according to well-placed sources.

“The problem with Geingob is that he consults too much because he seemingly is scared to take decisions on his own, so he called Mbumba and Shaningwa to State House,” a party official said.

After expressing his intent to fire the two ministers, Geingob was apparently advised to help “protect their dignity” by offering them the option to resign instead of outright dismissal.

“Firing them would have sent a clear message about his seriousness against corruption and possibly win back the hearts of many disillusioned Namibians, who are unhappy with the state of affairs in the country at the moment and are willing to give their votes to someone else,” another official said.

“The people advising the president have often let him down and this is one of those cases where he had made up his mind as head of state and someone he consulted talked him out of his decision. They told him he did not have enough evidence warranting firing the two ministers and he panicked.”

Officials say Shanghala and Esau “knew they were in trouble” and anticipated their sacking.

After they were invited to State House on Wednesday, Shanghala showed up in his private Range Rover instead of his official vehicle, Namibian Sun was told.

“In fact, he told his driver to drive the official vehicle to the Government Garage and park it there. That's how much he knew he was in trouble,” said a source.

“When news of this scandal emerged on Tuesday night, Esau was at the coast and he drove [to Windhoek] right away because he knew he would be summoned to State House.”

Although he had tendered his resignation, Esau hours later issued a statement on the fisheries ministry's letterhead in which he denied the allegations against him.

“Everyone was surprised by that because he was no longer minister. Why use the ministerial letterhead when you're no longer a minister?” another official wanted to know.


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