Namibia: MPs Demand Answers On Fishrot

12 February 2020

Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Nico Smit has challenged acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana to update the National Assembly and the nation on his investigations into allegations of corruption in the fishing sector.

Smit said Kawana's update on the investigations was necessary for the government to demonstrate a commitment to addressing the challenges in the fishing sector since nothing had happened after the arrest of two former ministers and their accomplices in the Fishrot corruption scandal. Smit made these demands in the National Assembly yesterday.

"Since then more and more information has come to light regarding this scandalous theft from the Namibian people, yet nothing has been heard about Dr Kawana's investigation. It is now mid-February," Smit said.

Last year, president Hage Geingob tasked Kawana to investigate issues of maladministration, corruption and nepotism in the fishing sector in the wake of the Fishrot corruption scandal, which reportedly paid over N$150 million in kickbacks to government officials and their cronies over four years.

Kawana was also mandated to review all affairs and the administration of the fisheries ministry and state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) over 10 years.

The Namibian reported that the Fishrot scandal could involve transactions worth as much as N$2,5 billion.

The PDM parliamentarian further asked Kawana to provide answers whether the government had made any effort to have the two vessels belonging to Icelandic fishing company Samherij, which left the Namibian shores, returned "with an eye of recouping some of the enormous illegal profits made by this Icelandic company".

Smit also asked why an investigation of that magnitude was left to a cabinet minister, let alone whose former colleagues are implicated in the alleged corruption.

Smit asked the logic behind tasking "a colleague of the disgraced ministers and a member of the Cabinet" with the investigation into the allegations of corruption, maladministration and other irregularities in the fishing sector.

Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora also wanted answers concerning the Fishrot corruption scandal.

Kavekotora wanted the minister responsible for fisheries (Kawana) and the Fishcor board to be questioned over the authorisation of several fraudulent transactions at Fishcor, including the N$17,5 million paid into Sisa Namandje's trust account.

"We are now at a stage where the public will demand a more accountable response on the utilisation of the country's resources and realistically inform the nation about the degree of corruption in this country," he said.

Kavekotora also challenged prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to open up all state-funded contracts and projects that have been marred by allegations of corruption to "a proper investigation and public scrutiny".

Kavekotora said this should be done to assure the public that there was no corruption in the implementation of several government-funded projects, such as the Walvis Bay oil storage facility, the mass housing project, the Government Institutions Pension Fund development capital projects and the payment of United Kingdom lawyers for the genocide inquiry, among others, despite allegations of dubious transactions.

Meanwhile, speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi blocked PDM leader McHenry Venaani from asking questions on how the ruling Swapo party was financing the construction of its N$730 million headquarters in Windhoek.

Venaani wanted to know where the ruling party was getting the money for the construction of the posh eight-floor building without any guarantee from commercial banks.

"It is a relevant question. It is a fundamental valid question for the people of this country to know that the government they have elected is building a multi-million-dollar building without loans from local commercial banks," Venaani stressed.

Katjavivi dismissed the questions saying it "does not contribute to the debate of this house".

"I am telling you that the question does not constitute the debate of this house. I will not allow it, honestly speaking," Katjavivi said.

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