Swapo won't boot Shangala, Esau from CC

Despite recalling them from parliament following the emergence of the Fishrot scandal, Swapo says it will not internally act against the two ex-ministers until there's a court verdict.

11 January 2021 | Politics



Swapo will not remove Bernard Esau and Sacky Shanghala from its Central Committee, and Politburo in the case of the latter, unless they are found guilty in the ongoing Fishrot scandal, party spokesperson Hilma Nicanor has said.

The party is under pressure to remove the two men, implicated in the bribery scandal and in jail since November 2019, from its leadership structures.

Late last year, the Politburo deliberated on the possibility of removing the two former ministers, but that did not happen. Swapo recalled the two from parliament when the Fishrot scandal surfaced more than a year ago, and banished them from the party parliamentary list before the 2019 general election. The move was seen as a ploy to hoodwink voters into believing the party did not condone the alleged acts of the two members, but the fact that it has not acted internally, thereby making Shanghala and Esau part of the decision-makers in the party, gives a different impression.

Esau and Shanghala are said to have worked in cahoots with other Fishrot co-accused to amend laws with clandestine intentions to enable bribes. They are said to have raked in millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for awarding fishing quotas to Icelandic company Samherji. Thousands of fishing industry workers lost their jobs when quotas were stripped from the private companies they were working for.

The fishing quotas were instead given to state-owned Fishcor, which is now at the centre of the Fishrot bribery scandal. Its former CEO Mike Nghipunya and board chairperson James Hatuikulipi are also behind bars over the same scandal.

Not guilty until proven

Nicanor maintained that Swapo will only act against Shanghala and Esau if the courts find them guilty.

“It's not that Swapo is condoning that people should engage in whatever things that are unbecoming. We are all saying that we are against corruption and those type of things,” Nicanor said.

“We want the court of justice to pronounce themselves.”

Supporters of the two former cabinet members have questioned why the two were removed from parliament if a court verdict is brandished as the basis upon which to act against them – seeing that they have not been found guilty yet.

According to the Swapo code of conduct and procedures' Section 16 (1), a member shall be guilty of misconduct if he or she is convicted in a court of law and is sentenced to a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine for any serious non-political offence.

However, Section 16 (15) of the same document states that a member is guilty of misconduct if they conduct themselves in a disgraceful, improper or unbecoming manner, causing embarrassment to the party.

When asked whether Section 16 (15) warranted the party acting against the two ex-ministers, especially since Fishrot is blamed for Swapo losing votes in national elections of 2019 and 2020, Nicanor said that Swapo would not look at the matter partially.

'Swapo acted'

She stated that Swapo president Hage Geingob and senior leaders had acted on the matter while it was still in its infancy.

“How do you deal with a case partially? It is not a secret that President Hage Geingob, who is also the president of the party, when this issue came up, the two comrades were called in and they were asked to express themselves,” Nicanor said.

“It is not as if the party leadership has been quite since [Fishrot] happened.

“To say that this is what has contributed to the party's loss of votes, I would say of course in public you will find people saying whatever they want to say but we have been very clear as Swapo when it comes to the Fishrot thing.”

At Swapo's elective congress of 2017, Shanghala and Esau were both elected as members of the Swapo Central Committee. Esau was subsequently elected as a member of the Politburo. Since their arrest, Swapo has lost its two-thirds majority in parliament in the 2019 elections, and key urban centres, including the capital Windhoek, in the 2020 local authority elections.

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