The fish is rotten from the head …but we are expected to eat it anyway

15 November 2019
We are not open-mouthed in surprise at the well-researched and professionally presented article “Kickback Kings” headlining the Namibian newspaper on Wednesday this week.
While none of those named has been charged or convicted of any crime, the articles expose two long-serving (former) Ministers. The story is a well-known tale about corruption, elitism, entitlement, and government ineptness. We can only hope that this information presented begins a punitive legal process.  However, as slow as our system moves, it may take years just to get charges filed; if any charges ever are filed (we remember GIPF).
When former Education Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa appeared before the courts for corruption (that was eventually proven), she was not asked to resign. And yet, these two ministers were forced out immediately based on news articles alone. The election in two weeks could be the deciding factor.
Many who may reluctantly vote for SWAPO and Geingob because “better the devil you know…” may react in frustration to the fish scandal and vote accordingly.
It is disturbing that ministers apparently adjusted laws to make it easier for them to manoeuvre money from state resources.  These funds may have ended up in their pockets or those of their family members.  If the story is proven correct, their Angolan partners-in-looting and Icelandic paymasters must share in this molestation of Namibia. This is the very definition of state capture. Hatuikulipi or Gupta, the seeming similarities (albeit on a smaller scale) cannot be ignored.
An elite group of schemers playing the long con, feathered their own nests at the expense of the nation. For this to happen, there were no checks-and-balances in place.  In addition, no one with the capacity to smell a rat and take action was awake and aware.  And worse, no political will existed to wade into the fishy morass to make things right.
The appointing authority for Ministers involved in this alleged den of pelagic manipulators is President Hage Geingob. Asking Ministers who have been caught out to resign is not enough. He must own this entire mess. The current president must comment on why such corruption, malfeasance and dishonesty has attached itself to his first term as president of Namibia. Three of his appointed ministers resigned amidst corruption allegations.  This is an ignoble record.
Corruption exists everywhere in the world.  The conmen and thieves were hard at work to varying degrees in the Nujoma and Pohamba administrations as well.  It was rife in Namibia even before independence when the soul-sapping corruption of white supremacy ruled the roost. 
And yet, this administration has the perception of being a magnet for ‘connected’, hand-clapping greedy people.  These schemers dream-up scams, use their access to power and inside information and rip-off the nation.  We have been reliably informed that Hatuikulipi bought campaign accessories for ‘Team Harambee” at the 2017 party congress and has provided funds for other ruling party events.
Stealing public funds and misusing government resources are the natural state of affairs in Namibia. It is easy to accept that scores of ‘inside’ and ‘connected’ people must have known about this fishy mess for years.  As noted in the article, the scheme reaches back as far as 2013.  We cannot be convinced that billions can be pocketed and only those few people named, knew anything about it. Sharks can smell the smallest drop of blood in the ocean and always come en mass to eat their share.
As the kickback story unfolds and the rats abandon the sinking ship, other favours granted and ‘gifts’ given might be revealed.  More names may emerge and more heads will roll.
We must point the finger of blame at the now resigned Justice Minister Sackey Shanghala and former Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau. This newspaper wrote an article in our national pages last week specifically highlighting the long-time taint of Shanghala.
There is a long list of dubious and controversial financial ‘dealings’ and other ‘entanglements’ over several years since Shanghala led the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC). That he held a seat in Cabinet for so long under such a cloud sends a negative message to the world about integrity in governing Namibia.
There are many unheralded cases where money and government equipment has gone missing. There are lists of government property abused with benefits going to greedy individuals.  If we want to zero-in on why this country is broke, we must certainly point to the Kickback Kings.  But, we cannot stop there, we must nab their cousins-in-crime operating in other ministries, regions and agencies.  Corrupt private sector contractors and service providers must also be exposed. Government money is being hi-jacked at every turn. No one is curbing the feeding frenzy and our economy is dying as a result.
In that landmark Kickback article, those involved agreed to grab all they can, “before everyone wakes-up.” We are awake now. Better late than never.
If not for the whistle-blowing of someone involved in the “strategy” in the beginning, this mess would never have come to light.
We do not want to hear another word about outside economic impacts that are the cause of this country’s financial crisis. Our problems are home-grown and sitting in Cabinet meetings chaired by the president.
We believe that no one moved to stop the money games being played with Icelandic fishing companies and the Angolans because so many others are stealing too.  Those with under-the-table deals in other areas are in no position to ‘out’ the fisheries mess, lest their own corrupt schemes get leaked to the public.
The legal hammer must fall swiftly and brutally on those named, as an example to the scores of others with their fingers in government pies. Let us hope our legal system rises to the level needed to give justice to an enraged nation. While our people continue to live in poverty, the world is watching what we do with our rotten fish.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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