Govt pays more money to UK lawyers

16 February 2018 Author   Sonja Smith
The Ministry of Finance has confirmed that it is in the process of paying N$1, 2 million more to the UK based lawyers for “legal” work done to supposedly prepare Namibia for a court battle with Germany over genocide reparations.
The latest payment comes five months after the lawyers threatened to sue the Namibian government for delaying settlement of N$47 million worth of invoices that were due in June last year.
The additional fees owed are for interest and penalties incurred as a result of the late payment by Namibia.
The attorneys of the UK based lawyers wrote to the then Minister of Justice, Albert Kawana, as well as Government Attorney, Matti Asino, on 12 September, 2017 requesting the additional payment.
Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary, Ericah Shafudah, confirmed the latest development, adding that Treasury was only waiting to be furnished with the lawyers’ account number to effect payment.
“The money is in the process of being paid. I believe that these attorneys are only representing two of the lawyers who represented the genocide team.
“We have already been informed about it, it is just a matter of getting instruction from the Government Attorney with regard to the account number then we process the fees,” Shafudah told the Windhoek Observer.
She said the total money to be paid is 76,000 British pounds which is equivalent to N$1, 2 million at current exchange rates.
This brings to a total of N$48, 2 paid by the Namibian government to the UK based lawyers.
The UK genocide lawyers’ attorneys -Thrings Solicitors - are representing Dexter Dias DC and the European Legal team.
They argued last year that Government should pay interest after delaying payments for work done. They also wanted Windhoek to cover the legal fees connected to the preparation of their lawsuit against the Namibian Government.
“The refusal to satisfy the debt went on for many months and in the case of the earliest invoices, for almost a year. In that period, excuse after excuse was advanced. Counsels were compelled to take the exceptional course of instructing lawyers of their own to recoup the monies legitimately owed.
“All counsel had incurred very considerable expenses financing the debt. This included both interest fees as well as the legal costs.
“The interest now claimed is the precise sum payable under the high court protocol for late payment of debts for commercial contracts.
“It is a figure stipulated by statute and failing due where, as here, there is a recalcitrant debtor,” the demand letter seen by the Windhoek Observer reads.
Government Attorney, Matti Asino, also confirmed that they were in the process of paying the interest fees incurred.
The exorbitant and largely unexplained legal fees have caused public outcry, particularly at a time when all ministries are cutting costs, freezing recruitment and trimming services for people around the country.
Former Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, ordered Treasury in July last year to pay N$31 million to the lawyers despite the questionable work done by them and the lack of approval for the unbudgeted expenditure by Cabinet or even the Genocide Technical Committee of the government working on this issue.
The international relations ministry alone paid N$11 million to the lawyers sometimes last year.
According to the letter sent to Namibia by the lawyers for the UK advocates working on the genocide issue, “Counsel took this course on the understanding and guarantee by GRN that legal fees would be paid promptly and in accordance with the explicit terms of the contract.
“Counsel then provided the attorney general, president, his special envoy, the Genocide Technical Committee and MIRCO (Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation) with detailed and invaluable legal advice and documentation to vindicate the right of the victims of Germany’s actions.
“Even then, all correspondence was ignored by GRN. It was only when it came to the attention of the president that proceedings were being taken in London, was the order given to pay the monies.”
Payments to the UK based lawyers are currently under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission after Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, expressed his disappointment over the deal.
The demand for reparations against the German government is now being simultaneously pursued by the Ovaherero Traditional Authority Paramount Chief, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro in the US Courts.
Rukoro recently returned from his trip to New York where the German Government had asked a US court to throw out the lawsuit seeking reparations for the genocide of the Herero and Nama people under German colonial rule due to the lack of jurisdiction of that court.
The next hearing in the case has been set for 3 May 2018.


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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