Maria Amakali, Kuzeeko Tjitemisa, Eveline de Klerk
WINDHOEK - Namibians have reacted with outrage following fresh revelations exposing local officials in the international bribery fishing scandal, dubbed ‘Fishrot’. Protest marches against the granting of bail for ‘Fishrot Six’ were being held outside the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court and in Walvis Bay, while finance minister Calle Schlettwein on Sunday evening called for those implicated to be prosecuted. On Sunday, Al Jazeera released the documentary ‘Anatomy of a Bribe’, which filmed Namibian officials including former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau involved in suspicious activity.
“The Al Jazeera video shows a typical case of resource looting from a developing country (Namibia) by a multi-national with the involvement of few highly placed and influential Namibians. It is criminal. All must be prosecuted. The process has started, must be completed,” Schlettwein said in a no holds barred tweet. Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and three of their co-accused reportedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103,6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. According to media reports, Samherji’s CEO and biggest shareholder, Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, authorised the bribe payments. The other three accused are former managing director of Investec Asset Management Namibia, James Hatuikulipi, his cousin Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, who is also the son-in-law of Esau and Ricardo Gustavo, a senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia, currently on suspension. Pius Mwatelulo is the sixth accused. The six abandoned their bail application yesterday, while magistrate Samunzala Samunzala postponed the case to 20 February next for further investigations. Defence lawyer Appolos Shimakeleni informed the court they wish to abandon the bail hearing and rather have the matter postponed. “Having consulted my clients and the state, we agree that the matter be remanded to 20 February 2020 for further police investigations,” explained Shimakeleni.
Meanwhile, in Walvis Bay, a group of fishermen who have been jobless since 2015, yesterday protested against the granting of bail to the six corruption accused. The fishermen who have been without jobs since their 2015 wildcat strike accused Esau of being responsible for the misery, saying he did not give attention to their grievances back then. Low wages, lack of benefits such as medical aid and working hours that do not comply with the Labour Act were some of the issues that were highlighted by the seamen during the 2015 strike. Matheus Lungameni, spokesperson of the Namibia Fishermen United Association yesterday told New Era that Esau’s silence during their protest for better working conditions in the fishing industry, indirectly caused the death of at least 25 seamen and at least 30 that were injured while at sea. “The two ministers and their cronies betrayed not only the fishermen but the rest of Namibia, hence they must not be granted bail. Justice should take its course and they must pay for selling out the country to foreigners while thousands of Namibians are on the streets, unemployed,” said Lungameni. A similar demonstration was also held outside the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court where the ‘Fishrot Six’ appeared.
Approached for comment, Anti-Corruption Commission director-general Paulus Noa yesterday confirmed that they were investigating prominent lawyer Sisa Namandje and Omualu Fishing managing director Sacky Kadhila-Amoomo who were also implicated by the Al Jazeera documentary in the fishrot scandal. “We cannot reveal what we are doing to the media, we will handle every information as we have handled information with regards to the other persons implicated and we know what we are doing as far as the persons you have mention and those are not the only persons that we are looking at. There are other persons as well,” he said. Ombudsman John Walters said his office was not preoccupied with the matter. “I will leave all these things for the court to decide, I have nothing to do with the corruption, and corruption is Noa’s job. My job is human rights and maladministration.”