Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein says he does not regret his now infamous tweet regarding the ‘fishrot’ saga. This is despite President Hage Geingob’s cabinet statement that ministers should either toe the line – in dealing with the scandal – or resign.
However, he was quick to indicate that he is of the opinion that his views did not create a rift between him and the head of state.
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper this week Schlettwein said, “I don’t regret what I said. But I also acknowledge the president’s stance that collective decision making in this regard is important.”
The remarks come following his tweet on social media in which he blasted a multinational company, Samherji for its role in the kickback and bribery fishing quota scandal involving top Namibian politicians and businessmen. Schlettwein wrote, “The Al Jazeera video shows a typical case of resource looting from a developing country by a multinational company with the involvement of a few high placed and influential Namibians. It is criminal. All must be prosecuted. The process has started, must be completed.”
He is however not the only cabinet minister to have aired a personal view on the matter. Mines and Energy Minister, Tom Alweendo, as well as the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste also made comments which may have infuriated the president, prompting the head of State to denounce them in Friday’s last cabinet meeting of the year.
Alweendo maintained that the recent revelation about the plundering of the country’s fisheries resources that has become to be aptly known as “Fishrot” is reprehensible and needs to be condemned by all Namibians.
“What makes it even more deplorable is the fact that it was perpetrated by those entrusted with public office leadership. This is a sign that corruption in our society could be more endemic than has been acknowledged, and that we as the government and trustees of public interest, need to be more vigilant,” Alweendo posted on social media calling on Namibians to demand that “the institutions responsible for holding us accountable will leave no stone unturned in their investigations, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
The mines and energy minister did not respond to similar questions sent to him by this newspaper, but the Windhoek Observer understands that he apologised to the president. On his part Jooste hinted that corruption of any kind should not be condoned.
“Corruption is like stealing, and whether one steals N$1 or N$1 million, it's all the same, and equally wrong. I'm proud of Namibians sharing their disgust and anger, and I believe that we have the corporate ability to turn a negative experience into a positive solution.” Jooste did not reply to messages left on his mobile phone.
Geingob stated his disapproval of cabinet ministers who have been making public comments pertaining to the scandal ‘as if they are holier than the pope.’ The head of state is said to have called for a collective approach in solving the matter and urged those who are against this viewpoint to resign.
But political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah has labelled the President Hage Geingob’s stance to wrap ministers on the knuckles for airing their views as ridiculous.
“I found it ridiculous and vengeful. Cabinet ministers should not and must not be dictated by the appointing authority in the absence of a collective cabinet,” Kamwanyah said.
“What's the collective cabinet decision on fishrot that the outspoken ministers have violated?” he further queried.
Suggesting how he would advise president Geingob on how to deal with the matter – at a political level – going forward, the political analyst said called on the president to be above the fray.
“He must be above the fray. He should the president of all, not just the people that supported him,” he stressed.