Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Namibia (ACC), Paulus Noa, has vowed that he will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the culprits involved in the alleged Fishrot kickback scandal that soaked up fishing quotas worth hundreds of millions of dollars over several years, face the full wrath of the law.
Amongst the alleged suspects are former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau as well as former Minister of Justice Sackey Shanghala, both of whom resigned from their respective positions last week. Also fingered in the scandal are James and Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi. The latter is the son-in-law of the disgraced fisheries minister.
Noa, who has been controversially on the job for 14 years, maintained that the ACC is working around the clock to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to pave the way for a smooth legal process.
“The ultimate goal is to bring enough evidence before the court to ensure that justice prevails. What I can assure you is that the matter is receiving our utmost attention on a daily basis. We want to ensure that this issue is brought before the courts before the end of this year or early next year,” Noa said.
Reminded of other corruption cases that have gone cold without proper litigation, such as the shenanigans at the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), the Kora Awards missing millions and SME Bank looting saga, all of which resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars – Noa maintained that the comparison is unwarranted.
“One will not be right to say that those cases took too long to finalise because they never went to court. In the GIPF saga, for example, the Prosecutor General recently said she will not prosecute due to a lack of evidence. It is this very situation that we are trying to avoid in this instance,” Noa stressed adding that this matter has its own merits since this time there are people who are willing to come forth with information.
Noa refused to divulge further information on when the arrests will be made but implied that the alleged suspects’ whereabouts are known.
“I cannot tell you when and where the arrest will be made, but it will happen in good time. As I said, we just want to do our homework first,” Noa said.
Noa’s comments come following president Geingob’s assertion that the alleged suspects are innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such. The president made this call while addressing Namibian youths in Windhoek this week.
Geingob maintained that there are systems and processes in place to deal with alleged perpetrators of corruption and that the ‘Fishrot’ case will not be handled differently from ‘similar cases such as the GIPF, Kora or SME Bank scandals.’
The president further maintained that while random acts of corruption are prevalent in the country, “there is no systemic corruption in Namibia.” Systemic corruption, he said, is when corrupt practices are enshrined in every facet of the public or private sector. This, he added, “is not the case in Namibia.”
His claims come amidst calls from various sectors of the Namibian society that the alleged culprits should be arraigned. Geingob maintained that while corruption is the process of enriching oneself with what you are not entitled to enrich yourself with, perpetrators of the act should be dealt with justly.
“We cannot conclude that these people are guilty? Which court found them guilty? In my way of doing things and according to my training [they are not]. Our Constitution says one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. They must be taken through the courts, face the wrath of the judicial system and once they are found guilty we can conclude that they are guilty,” Geingob said.
Geingob revealed that when the ‘Fishrot files’ saga emerged he summoned the government’s top four, for a meeting on the way forward.
“I called the top four because it is a consultative matter and not a one-man show. We then called the colleagues (Esau and Shanghala) to hear what they had to say. I had two letters for each of them; one for dismissal and another to accept the resignation,” the president maintained. He said that both Esau and Shanghala agreed to resign. It was further agreed that it will be in the best interest of the investigation if they get out of the way, for the process to begin.
As the scandal continues to build momentum, there have been increased calls from various quarters of the Namibian society, for the prosecution of the culprits. An online petition that was created by a group calling itself the ‘Citizens’ Council’, this week, which has received immense attention. By Tuesday, this week, the petition had generated over 15,000 signatures. The primary target of the petitioner(s) is to reach a minimum of 25,000.
The petitioners are saying that corruption has permeated almost every sector of Namibia, robbing citizens of their hard-earned cash, while taking food out of their children's’ mouths.
“Medical facilities are dilapidated and state pharmacies are under-stocked, our education system can barely sustain itself and our unemployment is at its highest since independence,” the petition reads.
They are further stating that Namibia is currently in a deficit concerning the country’s debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, as it has not been able to receive tax monies in excess of N$6, 3 billion over the past six years, from profits made through fishing quotas since 2012. Profits accrued by the said entities, according to the petitioners, are estimated to amount to between N$70 billion and N$90 billion per year, since the corrupt issuing of fishing quotas.
“A fine for these types of wrongdoings will not be sufficient, our President and judicial system must make it clear that corruption, regardless of whether in the public or private sector must be punished to the full extent of the law. A criminal is a criminal, whether he sits on the streets or in parliament,” the petitioners wrote.