Namibia: Ministers Quit Over Massive Kickback Scandal

14 November 2019

Fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and his justice counterpart Sacky Shanghala resigned yesterday after being linked to a massive corruption scandal involving an alleged kickback scheme of at least N$150 million.

The two ministers were immediately summoned to State House by President Hage Geingob following media reports on the issue.

According to presidency spokesperson Alfredo Hengari, Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba also attended the meeting.

"Understanding the severity of the allegations in the press, Esau and Shanghala have tendered their resignation to the president with immediate effect," he said.

President Geingob yesterday accepted the resignations of the two ministers and appointed Frans Kapofi as acting justice minister, while attorney-general Albert Kawana will act in at fisheries.

The Namibian newspaper, which broke the news yesterday, reported that an Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018. According to Wikileaks, Esau, Shanghala, Investec Asset Management Namibia CEO James Hatuikulipi and Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, who is also a son-in-law of the former fisheries minister, are all implicated in the kickback scheme.

Mike Nghipunya, who heads the state-owned Fishcor company with its headquarters at Lüderitz, is also named in the scandal.

According to media reports, Samherji's CEO and biggest shareholder, Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, authorised the bribe payments.

This is according to whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson, the former general manager of Samherji's operations in Namibia.

In a media statement, Esau confirmed his resignation, saying the allegations of corruption were part of a political witch-hunt by those who wish to use it as a (election) campaign matter.

"No one has presented me with any evidence of monies or favours that Esau received from anyone in exchange for duties as a minister," he said.

"No one has demonstrated any quid pro quo promises either written or otherwise, which I may have made to anyone in the course of undertaking my duties as a minister."

Leader of the official opposition, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), McHenry Venaani said the case "is most probably a tip of an iceberg".

He further demanded that the assets of those implicated be seized and bank accounts frozen.

A political commentator Ndumba Kamwanya echoed Venaani and added that the ruling party, Swapo, must resolve whether to keep them on the parliamentary list or not.

Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa when contacted for comment said she was not aware of the new developments. "I am not aware of anything, please tell me, you are the newsman," Shaningwa said.

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