Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein is leading an investigation to establish the work done by five foreign-based attorneys brought in by Attorney General Sackeus Shanghala to assist Government with genocide negotiations.
The lawyers have so far slapped Government with a N$47 million legal bill.
Senior Government sources told the Windhoek Observer that Schlettwein wrote a letter to International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah on 10 April 2017, seeking clarification on the legal fees to be paid to the foreign lawyers, including Namibian-born lawyer, Anna Uukelo.
In her response, dated 5 June, Nandi-Ndaitwah told Schlettwein that her office could not confirm or validate the work performed, but she, however, advised Schlettwein to pay the lawyers to avoid the accumulation of interest.
“Comrade Minister, my office cannot confirm or validate the invoices against the work performed, as the lawyers were working under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office.
“However, as work is done and the Government has paid part of the sum £208 776,23 (N$3,518,079,64) out of a total £629 948,45 (N$10,614,826,31) leaving a balance of £419 172,2 (N$7,061,821) it is advisable that the balance be paid off to avoid accumulation of interest,” Nandi-Ndaitwah wrote back to Schlettwein three weeks ago.
Sources added that the payment by Nandi-Ndaitwah’s ministry is just a tip of the iceberg as the lawyers have also invoiced Government through Shanghala for £2,1m (about N$36 m).
The invoiced amounts exclude payments to another lawyer, Advocate Sacky Akweenda, whose fees are unknown at this stage.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer on Thursday, Schlettwein confirmed writing a letter to Nandi-Ndaitwah. He said he wanted to know what Government had benefitted from paying such a huge amount of money.
“I wanted to know what work had been performed that warranted us paying such huge amounts of money. Although it’s a matter that is handled by their ministry and the attorney general’s office, such costs have not been budgeted for by the finance ministry,” Schlettwein said.
Responding to queries from the Windhoek Observer, Shanghala defended his decision to appoint the external lawyers, saying his decision was in the best interest of the country.
The Attorney General said he was duty bound to ensure that the Government of the Republic of Namibia’s efforts “at vindicating the legacy of our slain compatriots, through political engagements and failing which, under international law, are fully and finally vindicated”.
“This is a historic project. It would be impossible without substantial high-level international legal advice,” he said.
“It is against this background that the services of Advocate Dr Sacky Akweenda, Advocate Anna Uukelo (London-based), Advocate Dexter Dias (QC), Advocate Cameron Miles, Advocate Richard Reynolds, and Advocate Paul Clark of Garden Court Chambers or Gray’s Inn of London were engaged. With the exception of Dr Akweenda, the others are London-based, chosen for their expertise and suitability.
“The simple reason is that for such an important matter, and having taken note of the racial undertones which were circulating (Owambo Government etc.), having noted that Germany is very committed at ensuring that there is no legal culpability attached to their conduct in the yester-years (this is their right), expertise was needed to buttress skills locally.
“Knowing that Germany is a great contributor to the development of European law and international law, a peer review of the work generated as a Government was needed, from lawyers who are familiar with the European and international law principles that may become applicable as this matter progresses, lest we be accused as a Government that we did not do all that we could have done to ensure that we represented the sacrifices of those that were brutally killed and those generations that continue to suffer as a result thereof.”
He said the six lawyers had travelled to Namibia and Germany to conduct research on the genocide negotiations between the Namibian and German governments.
“For over eight months last year, the team travelled to Namibia and to Germany, and has conducted research with leading professionals on certain subjects that could be entertained in any legal process the Republic of Namibia may be advised by the Attorney General to consider. Their total fees amount to £2,080,197,75, which if converted at a rate of £1=N$17.4 amounts to N$36,180,197,75.
“There may be further funds expended by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation on logistics of covering for the costs of the inclusion of members of the Technical Committee that reports to the Vice President. However, taking into account the complexity of the matter and unquantifiable value of the lives that perished, then it cannot be said that the GRN is not doing enough, politically, legally or otherwise to champion the cause of restorative justice as far as the genocide matter and Germany’s responsibility is concerned,” Shanghala said.
Chairperson of the Genocide Technical Committee, Tonata Itenge-Emvula confirmed that the committee was not involved in hiring lawyers, adding that it was Shanghala’s decision alone.
Investigations by the Windhoek Observer have established that money set to be paid to Uukelo is destined for her personal account.
This has raised suspicions and concerns among some top Government officials, who are questioning the legitimacy of payments forced on Government.
Documents seen by the Windhoek Observer show that out of the N$36m that was invoiced in November, about N$16,276,190.74 (£960,450) is to be paid to Uukelo alone.
Although her LinkedIn account says Uukelo is a CEO at Olupale Energy Namibia, there are no details of what law firm she represents.
Finance Permanent Secretary, Ericah Shafudah, confirmed that Treasury had received notice from Shanghala to settle the N$36 million invoices.
“We have received the request to pay, but no payment has been made yet,” Shafudah said.
Nothing has been done
According to reports, Government is seeking over N$400 billion from Germany for the killing of over 65,000 Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.
Namibia’s Special Envoy on Genocide, Dr Zed Ngavirue, told the Windhoek Observer this week that no progress has been made by the technical committee since submitting documents to the German Government mid-last year.
“There has not been much of an improvement to update lately. We are still waiting for the German Government to reply to us. I understand there have been changes on their part, but we gave them substantial documents on 1 July 2016.
“With regard to the legal issues on payments, that is another matter that is being dealt with by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation Permanent Secretary, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, and Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala,” Ngavirue said.
In Parliament recently, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila avoided questions by SWANU leader, Usutuaije Maamberua, who questioned whether Government has put in place adequate legal administrative and institutional framework to manage the aftermath of the genocide negotiations and reparation benefits being sought from Germany.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the matter was a sensitive one that requires more consultations.
The Windhoek Observer sent questions to the German Government last week, but received no response.
Questions sent to all lawyers this week, went answered, except for Miles who said that commenting on this matter will be a breach of his professional obligations.
“Unfortunately, anything I could say on this subject is protected by legal professional privilege and I’d be in breach of my professional obligations to comment on it,” he said.
No Cabinet approval
Sources in Government claim Shanghala did not have Cabinet approval to commit the State to such costs. Others even alleged that Shanghala was personally benefiting from the deal, although this could not be verified.
“If he is going to proceed using their services to pay such huge fees, can he explain to us what work these lawyers have done thus far? If more than N$36m alone was for last year, what can the Namibian Government expect to be invoiced for the 2017/2018 budget?” One government official quizzed.
Secretary to Cabinet, George Simataa, referred questions to Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Tjekero Tweya.
“Sorry, as you may know, I am not the official spokesperson on Cabinet matters, but the Minister of Information and Communication Technology is. I advise that you approach him for clarity on that issue,” he said.
Tweya confirmed the matter did not go through Cabinet.
“I cannot assist you with this one. Those matters are handled by the special envoy and have not gone directly through Cabinet,” Tweya said.