Many fishermen holding the corruption net

20 February 2020
The culpability for the Fishrot scandal lies with every Cabinet member or Member of Parliament that has direct or indirect beneficiation from any fishing interest. In addition, we believe that the Swapo ruling party -unless it declares and shows evidence that they never received money or services from a fishing concern- shares some guilt for the mess as well.
Something as huge as Fishrot does not happen in a vacuum. We believe that those who are receiving direct or indirect cash or in-kind services from profits generated by the fishing sector are from the highest levels of political power. There is no way something like this can go on for so long, otherwise.
Those now in the dock for their selfish, money-grubbing actions in the Fishrot debacle deserve their day in court. They have earned public scorn on the basis of the strong accusations backed up by a paper trail dirtied by fish guts.
The “corruption queue” as reportedly dubbed by Fishrot accused James Hatuikulipi, will grow longer. There are many sets of dirty hands involved to varying degrees.
We are not as interested in arrests as we are in convictions. We want to see legal confiscations of assets and lengthy prison terms. This case will likely drag on for several years, in hopes that public outrage goes to sleep. After which, the culprits can quietly get slaps on the wrists with little negative public blowback.
But, that is the legal sideshow.
The real point of attack on Fishrot, must start with changing the system where a minister of Fisheries has unchecked power to unilaterally award fishing rights. There is no oversight or recourse to an independent review for those whose rights are withdrawn or decreased. There is no public listing or audit of the companies (and their owners) who have been granted fishing quotas.
There must be an investigation behind the layers of company ownerships. People behind the trusts and familial connections must be listed. We speculate that members of Cabinet, other than Shanghala or Esau have their hands in the fishing till one way or another.
We assert that many members of Parliament and those holding power positions in the Swapo ruling party might have their hands somewhere in the fishing till.
Fishrot was a slow bleed of hundreds of millions in creative ways fanning out over several years. There are many charges on the celebrity queue with some facing more than others. The fraud portion of the charges surrounding the use of Fishcor covers the period of 2014-2019.
We call for Fishcor board members from those years to undergo questioning to ferret out any possible criminal collusion. The Fishrot millions were evident in financial reports from those years. Did the board execute its due diligence role and query the income and examine the paper trail?  FYI - The now-disgraced fisheries minister appointed the Fishcor board.
Esau is charged with corruptly awarding a quota of 50,000 tonnes of horse mackerel to Namgomar Pesca from 2014 to 2019. Will an examination of the board members of that company reveal connections between Cabinet members, Swapo insiders, business people with ruling party tentacles or their family members?
The fisheries minister wields a huge golden stick. He can point it towards or away from anyone. Those in power know this; those involved in corruption want that stick firmly and permanently pointed at them. This wide-ranging corruption scam that cost hundreds of fishermen their jobs was a grand scheme due to that golden stick.
Every year quotas are handed out by the Minister, he decides how much side-money each person of power with fishing company connections, earns. That makes for a very powerful, popular and protected minister.
We cheer former Prime Minister Nahas Angula’s recent statements on this issue. He questions the very system of a minister giving quotas with no oversight. He called for Swapo to be open and state whether they received fishrot money in any form. “A minister convinces Cabinet to change a law in the name of Black Empowerment so he can control a natural resource. Cabinet agrees, parliament agrees, and the minister is given a free hand.”
The very structure of that law empowering Esau to dictate fishing quotas opened the door for abuse. While his cases are still pending, it seems the minister walked through that door, encouraged and applauded by many.  There were those in Cabinet and in Parliament voting for that change in the fisheries law who knew that Esau would use his new power to provide for them.
It is a fact that doing any business in Namibia, having a connection to the Swapo Party is a ‘legitimizer.’ Tenderprenuers, 10 percenters who make hundreds of thousands for setting up meetings and other chancers, all ‘sell’ their party contacts as a badge of their ability to make deals. Fishrot developed on that same basis.
In fact, Esau is on camera asking for money for the party. The ruling party must own its culpability for its members who illicitly and unethically make money trading on their party bona fides.
Fishrot is not limited to those who land in the dock. The scope must include those who passed a law opening a wide avenue for corruption so companies in which they have an interest could benefit. The ruling party is also caught in the Fishrot net and must declare its role to either clear its reputation or make amends.


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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