Sisa won't kiss and tell

The president's attorney has claimed that Al Jazeera journalists were working with some locals to disadvantage the head of state ahead of last year's election.

27 April 2020 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



As pressure mounts on Sisa Namandje to open his books, the lawyer says he will under no circumstances breach attorney-client privilege because that could get him disbarred.

Namandje is accused of having used his firm's trust account to launder money for the so-called Fishrot Six.

Namandje, who denies that he is unwilling to cooperate with the investigation into the bribery scandal, has been dragged to court by Law Society of Namibia (LSN) chairperson Retha Steinmann, who applied to the High Court for a search and seizure warrant. Namandje claims that in its court application the LSN disregards the fundamental issue of client-attorney privilege.

“It approaches the matter like the press and other uninformed members of the public as if the very fact of complying with this fundamental principle of law is somehow wrongdoing,” he says in a lengthy affidavit filed with the court.

Namandje argues that the Law Society's application is fundamentally at odds with the firm's obligation towards its clients and the rule of law.

“The dilemma we face is this: if we comply with our attorney-client privilege obligation, the application says we are hiding some wrongdoing and are not worthy of being legal practitioners.

“If we succumb to the pressure to submit to an unlawful process and disclose privileged information in this application, thereby breaching our obligations towards our clients, those clients will demand our removal from the roll for not being worthy legal practitioners,” Namandje's affidavit reads.





He adds that the Namibian Constitution provides that the right to obtain a warrant must be prescribed by an Act of Parliament, thus the Act itself must prescribe the procedure.

“The power to determine the applicable procedure and the circumstances under which a warrant may be obtained cannot be delegated to a rule-making body. This is reinforced by considerations relating to the doctrine of separation of powers.”



Inadmissible

Namandje also argues that video recordings and the Al Jazeera 'Fishrot' documentary constitute inadmissible evidence.

WikiLeaks documents allege that state-owned fishing entity Fischor paid N$17.5 million into Namandje's trust account in 2015 and 2017.

This money was allegedly linked to the Fishrot scandal in which former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and others are implicated.

The two former cabinet ministers and four others have been arrested and are in custody in the main Fishrot case. There are three further cases linked to the saga.

“Without admitting any portion of the applicant's allegations concerning the Al Jazeera documentary, I must make one thing clear. The Al Jazeera journalists were in Namibia at the time working with some locals primarily to get access through me to President Hage Geingob in order to film him prior to the elections and use that evidence to his disadvantage during the elections. This they tried at least six times without success,” Namandje claims.

The six main accused - Esau, Shanghala, former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, former Investec executive Ricardo Gustavo, Esau's son-in-law Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo - are being detained at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility. They have been implicated in receiving over N$150 million in bribes from an Icelandic seafood company in exchange for facilitating access to Namibian fishing quotas.

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