Nahas waxes lyrical on Fishrot

The former prime minister says the ruling party must come clean amid swirling allegations that it benefited from the Fishrot bribery saga.

19 February 2020 | Politics

Former prime minister Nahas Angula says the ruling party Swapo, for which he served as a central committee member, must explain its alleged links to the Fishrot bribery scandal.

This in light of allegations flying around that the former liberation movement was a beneficiary of millions of dollars in bribes disguised as political donations in exchange for fishing quotas.

“If it is true that Swapo really did do this, then we should really hang our heads in shame, but I hope it is not true,” he said.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general Paulus Noa said yesterday: “We are investigating individuals and we are not asking them what party they belong to.”

The headcount of those arrested in connection with the Fishrot scandal now stands at ten after suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Angula also questioned how such large monies in the Fishrot saga could have been laundered through local commercial banks without red flags being raised.

“An ordinary person here must justify where they got their money from when they deposit even just N$500. Why then is it alleged that the Fishrot accused have transferred large sums of money from one firm to another, but nobody in the banking system is asking why that money is going there, especially money that is coming from a government entity like Fishcor? It is puzzling,” said Angula. According to Angula, corruption in Namibia such as in the case with the notorious SME bank scandal, is often done through collaboration. “I do not think you can go into another country and start stealing there alone. Our own people must have been involved in this SME Bank [corruption]”

He said it is disturbing that former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau was able and allowed to push through an amendment to the Marine Resources Act that gave him more powers.

“A minister goes and convinces Cabinet to change a law in the name of black empowerment, so he can control a natural resource. Cabinet agrees, parliament agrees, and the minister is given a free hand. A natural resource! I would not even have asked myself, had it been me, because this resource does not belong to me,” he said.

The Act was amended in 2015 to give Esau powers to allocate rights as he saw fit – leading to his stripping many private companies of fishing rights.

Those who lost such rights ended up retrenching thousands of fishermen.

Esau's amendment of the law followed a 2014 High Court ruling that said his allocation of 10 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel to state-owned fishing company Fishcor was illegal because the entity was not a horse-mackerel fishing rights holder.

The allocation of the rights to Fishcor is now seen as a smokescreen to allocate them to Icelandic seafood company Samherji in return for kickbacks to those implicated in the Fishrot debacle. It is alleged at over N$150 million in bribes changed hands.

This was done under the guise of 'Namibianisation' of the sector.

The main accused in the Fishrot matter are James Hatuikulipi, who was forced to step down from his position as Fishcor board chairperson, his cousin Tamson, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, suspended Investec employee Ricardo Gustavo, Hanganeni employee Pius Mwatelulo and Nghipunya. Others arrested are hangers-on of the main accused. They face separate charges.

Greed got us here

Angula says corruption has been allowed to flourish in Namibia because those perpetrating the theft of state resources believe they are protected by the political elite.

“I do not know what really happened to the ethical and moral fabric of our society. People simply became greedy,” Angula said yesterday during a wide-ranging interview with Namibian Sun.

“When people become so brazen, you would suspect they might have gotten an example from somebody high up there. They feel protected somehow. You cannot go and do these illegal things over and over,” Angula said.

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