'We didn't go to the bush for corruption'

20 November 2019 | Fishing

Attorney-general and acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana says the liberation struggle was never about self-enrichment, while strongly hinting at the betrayal of those who are enriching themselves by dubious means in independent Namibia.

Asked yesterday whether Namibians had benefited enough from the fishing industry, Kawana said: “That one I cannot say.”

This comes amid a N$150 million bribery scandal that has already resulted in the resignations of former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and justice minister Sacky Shanghala. Some sources estimate that the amount involved could be as high as N$2.5 billion.

Jóhannes Stefánsson, the Icelandic fishing executive who says he facilitated the bribes for Namibian politicians and officials in exchange for gaining access to a fishing quota “goldmine”, says he blew the whistle because he could not understand how the people involved “could sleep at night”. According to international reports, politicians and officials in Namibia who allegedly took bribes from Samherji, for which Stefánsson was the representative in Namibia, include Esau; Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, who worked as consultant for Samherji and is Esau's son-in-law; James Hatuikulipi, the chairman of state-owned Fishcor; and Shanghala. The fifth individual implicated is Mike Nghipunya, the CEO of Fishcor.

Asked what his take was about the perception that there are government officials who are misusing state resources to their own benefit at the expense of the masses, Kawana said: “My brother, some of us came from the bush.”

Asked if this entitled them to state resources, Kawana said: “No, no, no you are putting words in my mouth. We came from the bush.

The fight was for Namibians to live a better life. During our youth we went to the bush to fight… during our lifetime, as youth, that's why a number of my colleagues were PLAN fighters.

“Our fight was to liberate this country, first and foremost, so that Namibians can enjoy the fruits of independence; nobody must be left out, as the president says: Harambee style. So these resources belong to the nation, not to an individual,” Kawana said.

Asked whether this was indeed the case, he said: “Some of these things will come to court, so I have to respect the court processes.”

Kawana was at the Katutura Magistrate's Court, where independent president candidate Panduleni Itula's electoral tribunal case against the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) and Swapo has kicked off. The matter involves the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a paper trail in the upcoming general election on 27 November.

Stefánsson said in a recent interview with Iceland news media outlet Kveikur that he hoped Namibians would in future benefit from their country's resources, instead of a western country and a few corrupt men who watch their people suffer.

Stefánsson came to Namibia in 2011 to get close to politicians involved in the fisheries sector.

“This is criminal activity. It's organised crime. They are benefiting from the country's resources, taking all the money out of the country to invest it elsewhere, in Europe or the United States,” he said.

Kawana said yesterday: “A person who is bribed commits a criminal offence. A person who bribes commits a criminal offence, so it's a two-way traffic… so this businessman offered a bribe to this public servant or public official, both of them must be tried, that's how you effectively fight crime.

“So don't concentrate just on one side. It was me who brought that law in parliament. I know what I am talking about.”

Asked about the Anti-Corruption Act, which gave birth to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and how successful the anti-graft body has been, Kawana said: “You may have your opinion, I have my opinion. For us, if you are to come up with credible evidence… check what happened in the courts, what happens in the entity that is entrusted to administer the law; that is the ACC.

“You see… to fight corruption, it's not only one institution. You have so many institutions, including you journalists. You do a good job, I must admit. You do a good job to expose some of these things, including individuals; this is a collective responsibility for each and every Namibian.”

Asked about trade minister Tweya's recent utterances when he compared journalists to flies, Kawana said the question was tantamount to inviting him to attack a colleague.

“I don't know all the background,” he said.

Asked whether he believed that the media were flies, Kawana responded: “You are putting words in my mouth.”


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