Namibia: Fishrot Lawyers' Convictions Stand After Appeal Loss

7 September 2020

Two South African lawyers who were arrested for working in Namibia without employment permits when they were set to represent the men charged in the Fishrot corruption case in court last year, have lost an appeal against their convictions on charges under the Immigration Control Act.

The appeal in which senior counsel Mike Hellens and Dawie Joubert attacked their convictions on charges of working in Namibia without having the required employment permits and furnishing false or misleading information to an immigration officer was dismissed in the Windhoek High Court on Friday.

In the appeal judgement, acting judge Kobus Miller concluded that Hellens and Joubert were practising their profession in Namibia when they were due to represent the six men charged in the Fishrot fishing quotas corruption case during an appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on 29 November last year.

The fact that they were to represent clients in court for only one day, and were not due to work in Namibia for a longer period, did not mean that they would not have carried on their profession in Namibia, Miller indicated.

Judge Dinnah Usiku agreed with his judgement.

During the hearing of the two senior lawyers' appeal in August, senior counsel Raymond Heathcote argued that although Hellens and Joubert admitted guilt on two charges under the Immigration Control Act, they actually did not commit any offence, as they were not in Namibia to carry on their profession on a continuous basis.

Hellens and Joubert admitted guilt on both charges during a late-afternoon appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on 29 November, and were each sentenced to fines totalling N$10 000 or a prison term of 18 months.

They subsequently appealed against their convictions, and also filed a civil case in the High Court in which they are asking the court to review and set aside their convictions and sentences and declare these as null and void. The review application is still pending.

With the hearing of the appeal, Heathcote noted that the Immigration Control Act states that a person who enters Namibia on a visitor's permit, like Hellens and Joubert did, may not "carry on any profession or occupation" while then in Namibia.

Hellens and Joubert entered the country only to appear on behalf of their clients in a once-off bail application, and not to carry on their profession on a continuous basis, he argued.

Deputy prosecutor-general Cliff Lutibezi argued that since Hellens and Joubert were issued with visitor's entry permits on their arrival in Namibia, they were not supposed to engage in any employment, business or carrying on of a profession in the country.

A certificate issued to them by the chief justice only authorised them to appear as legal practitioners in a specific case, but did not absolve them from having to comply with the Immigration Control Act as well, Lutibezi also argued.

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