Namibia: Judiciary 'Misled' Public On Kora Saga

The judiciary misled the public and broke the law when it blocked access to court papers involving the disappearance of N$23 million paid for a failed music awards show.

This is according to two Namibian lawyers - Eben de Klerk and Norman Tjombe - who accused the judiciary of setting a dangerous precedent through a court case that implicated president Hage Geingob and justice minister Sacky Shanghala.

The Judicial Service Commission, headed by chief justice Peter Shivute, will now investigate how this case was hidden from the public.

The judiciary appears to have misinformed the public when it claimed that it blocked access because there were negotiations between the government and an alleged swindler, while there were none.

At the centre of this con-job is Geingob's friend and businessman, Ernest Adjovi, who is accused of defrauding the Namibian government with around N$23 million.

He was paid to organise the Kora All Africa Music Awards.

The Benin-born businessman promised Namibia heaven on earth and even told The Namibian at the time that the overall winner would bag N$14,4 million.

The award ceremony never took place.

Adjovi said in court papers that his "ties" to Geingob landed him the N$23 million deal to host the awards. Geingob has since 2015 accused Adjovi of misusing his name for personal benefit.

The government dragged Adjovi to court in 2016 to force him to pay back the money.

The case will go to trial next month, but online court documents were branded "in camera" by Monday last week, barring public access to court papers.

Namibian Sun first reported this secrecy last week.

Judiciary spokesperson Ockert Jansen issued a late statement in an attempt to clear the air, saying they blocked public access because court rules allow parties to settle matters outside court.

"The parties in this matter had expressed such a wish to the presiding judge while engaged in settlement discussions. The court considers it sound public policy to encourage a settlement to avoid a matter going to court; and thus saving the court's time and resources," he said.

Jansen added that "if no settlement is reached, court proceedings will always be concluded in open court".

Even though the court papers were made public last week, the judiciary statement turned out to be misleading and defending an illegal act.

The Namibian understands that the government was not in talks with Adjovi any more. In fact, sources said the government pulled out of the talks last year and rejected Adjovi's offer to pay back around N$7 million of the N$23 million he received.

COVER-UP

Lawyers Eben de Klerk and Norman Tjombe questioned the judiciary's secrecy.

De Klerk asked the Law Society of Namibia on Thursday to investigate how this case was branded secret and described it as "the most serious attacks on our attempt to uphold the rule of law since independence".

"It is clear that there never was a formal application to have this matter heard in camera (and thus to refuse public access to the court file), and for the court to rule in favour of a secret trial," he said.

De Klerk said out-of-court settlements do not qualify as grounds to hold a court case in secret.

"Logically, the [judiciary] press release also makes no sense: negotiation talks are always confidential. The pleadings are never removed from the public eye for that purpose," he added.

The lawyer added that the "judiciary attempted to cover for the registrar's non-disclosure of the pleadings, or in fact cover because judiciary unprocedurally instructed the registrar not to make such disclosure".

He also accused the judiciary of trying to cover up for politicians.

"There are senior government officials who had a personal interest in hiding the pleadings from the public eye, and who could have abused their office to affect such secrecy, through the judiciary and the registrar," De Klerk said.

The Law Society of Namibia is supposed to send De Klerk's complaint to the Judicial Service Commission, led by chief justice Shivute, to investigate the matter.

Judiciary spokesperson Jansen confirmed toThe Namibian yesterday that a member of the public had complained through a letter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) about this matter.

"It would be premature to comment further at this stage as the JSC must now deliberate on the matter. The judiciary never misled the public," he said.KINGPIN

The Benin-born businessman explained in court papers that his relationship with Geingob started in 1990 when he was introduced to him by a member of the United Nations.

"Geingob and I became firm friends to such an extent that we visited each other, regularly played tennis and socialised with each other," Adjovi said.

He said he lost contact with Geingob after the former minister left the government, around 2003.

Adjovi added that they re-established ties in 2014 - a year before Geingob became Namibia's president - "to such an extent that it led to agreements being signed" between his company and the government to host the music awards.

He said Geingob, then attorney general Sacky Shanghala and government representatives, had always "been part of the negotiations [and] were well aware of the circumstances of this matter".

Adjovi said this included Namibian businessman Tonata Shimi, the Kora awards country representative.

"Shanghala who was then the attorney general, drafted the agreements," Adjovi said.

He said he spoke to Shanghala on the phone on 1 March 2016.

"Shanghala undertook to find the sponsors necessary (as agreed to by the government) to cover the costs of suppliers and pay them directly," he said.

The businessman claimed that the contract was breached, forcing him to abandon the awards.

Meanwhile, the offices of law firm Kangueehi & Kavendjii Inc were broken into yesterday morning, losing computers and certain" information.

The Namibian understands that the burglary took place at around 6h00 in Windhoek this morning.

The law firm is representing the government in the court case involving the lost N$23 million Kora Music Awards. A person close to the law firm did not want to link the Kora saga to the burglary.

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