Namibia: Swapo Wanted Fishcor Shares - Namandje

LAWYER Sisa Namandje said Swapo has consulted him in the past on owning shares in national fishing company Fishcor.

Namandje revealed this in documents submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in October last year.

He explained this to the authorities when he tried to justify why his law firm failed to detect that payments of up to N$23 million made into its trust account by Fishcor were linked to corrupt activities.

Namandje's law firm was used to transfer N$17 million from Fishcor to politically connected individuals such as Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu (N$5,2 million) and businessman Vaino Nghipondoka (N$9,7 million).

Namandje declined to comment yesterday.

"Sisa Namandje & Co Inc has no comment," he said.

Like Namandje, Amukwiyu and Nghipondoka have in the past denied any wrongdoing and have claimed they too did not know that an amount of N$15 million came from Fishcor.

Namandje insisted in his statement to the ACC he would not have realised that amount was suspicious.

The lawyer cited four reasons to defend his argument.

One was that Swapo has in the past consulted him to buy shares in Fishcor - a company formed by the Swapo led-government in 1991.

He said during 2009 and 2010, a former chairperson of Swapo's think tank asked him for advice on the possibility of the party, through one of its companies, acquiring shares in the national fishing corporation.

"Secondly, during or about 2009 or 2010, I remember I was asked by the former chairperson of the Swapo Party think tank to advise him on the possibility of some Swapo companies acquiring class C and D shares in Fishcor, which are provided for under section 5(5) and (6) of the Fishcor Act," Namandje said.

The Namibian understands that former fisheries minister Abraham Iyambo was the Swapo Party think tank chairperson at the time.

He allegedly approached Namandje for legal advice on owning shares in Fishcor.

"I at all relevant times thereafter took it that the plans mooted at the time ... were carried through for Swapo companies to acquire such class of shares," Namandje said.

According to the National Fishing Corporation Act of 1991, Fishcor's class A and B shares are reserved for the government only.

Class C and D can be bought by citizens who are permanent residents in Namibia and by companies incorporated in Namibia which are mostly Namibian-owned.

The act, however, does not prevent the government from taking up class C, D and E shares "as are not taken up upon the conclusion of any offer of such shares for public subscription".

The act says in terms of the payment of dividends, the government is entitled to 15% of the total dividend as the holder of class A shares.

Other share categories - C, D, and E - are entitled to 34%, 25,5% and 25,5% "of the total dividends pro rata to their shareholding".

Namandje's other arguments are that his firm has in the past advised and continued advising "that Fishcor, as per its mandate ... could sell and buy fishing products, including quotas. So, it would not be unusual to pay money to business entities or business personalities," he said.

"Fishcor, with the board of directors and management, would have followed its own internal procedures to make such a payment. I would not have had reason to doubt that internal procedures were followed. Over the years I have witnessed some public companies (parastatals) publicly making donation pledges at Swapo events," he said.

Namandje also said such a payment would be something that Fishcor would have transparently and publicly reported on in terms of its rules.

Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) leader Mike Kavekotora yesterday said it is "totally unheard of for a ruling party or any political party to own a share in a state-owned enterprise. It is a conflict of interest of the highest order".

"State-owned enterprises are public entities, and the government is governing these institutions on behalf of the public and in the public's interest. If the state wants to expose or share in an SOE, that process must be transparent and above board for the public to participate in," he said.

"The writing is on the wall. Swapo will fall and they cannot save themselves," he said.

Swapo's executive director, Austin Samupwa, did not respond to questions sent to him yesterday.

ENTER ESAU

The plot to buy shares into Fishcor failed, but the ruling party still found a way to use the national fishing company to fund its political campaigns.

Bernhard Esau was appointed as minister of fisheries and marine resources in 2010 and started enforcing his so-called 'Namibianisation' of the fishing sector.

The plot for what is now called the Fishrot corruption scandal started a year later with the help of the then chairperson of the Law Reform Commision, Sacky Shanghala.

Shanghala held meetings to change the law that eventually gave Esau unprecedented powers to allocate fishing quotas to Fishcor.

Fishcor would then allocate quotas to rights holders. Esau appointed James Hatuikulipi as chairperson of the Fishcor board in 2015.

Hatuikulipi then masterminded the implementation of Namibia's corruption scandal, estimated to involve around N$2 billion, which funded president Hage Geingob's political campaign in 2017.

YOUTH LEAGUE

Namandje revealed the Swapo Party Youth League (Spyl) is also in the fishing business and has in the past administered payments in its name through his law firm's trust account.

He said the ruling party's youth wing in 2012 were involved in a joint venture called Yucor Investments.

Other companies in the Yucor Investments venture were Esja Mar/ Mermaria Seafood Namibia.

Mermaria is a subsidiary of Samherji - an Icelandic company at the centre of the Fishrot corruption scandal.

This joint venture, according to Namandje, then transferred N$16 million into his law firm's trust account.

At the time, Namandje said, a certain Henock Nantanga and lawyer Rodgers Kauta opened a file with his law firm in the name of Yucor Investments.

"I was advised that the fishing quotas will be allocated to the joint ventures only, and not directly to individual rights holders. I was made to understand that Yucor was one of such joint ventures, comprising five companies, including a company in which the Swapo Party Youth League had an interest," he said.

TWO MUSKETEERS

Amukwiyu and Nghipondoka enjoyed the benefits of their proximity to power.

By 2015 the two were still in the president's good books.

Amukwiyu was the chairperson of the Swapo regional coordinator forum, a body that was ostensibly created to, among others, secure Geingob's political interests in the regions.

Namandje said Amukwiyu contacted him around December 2015.

"He contacted me and informed me he was in Windhoek and that he and Vaino Nghlpondoka of Babyface had opened a file at our office, or they were to open a file (not that sure now), but I think they have already opened a file by then," Namandje said.

According to the lawyer, he informed them he would be happy to assist.

"We did not discuss much detail, but he mentioned that he and Mr Vaino Nghipondoka were expecting their funds and that they have given our trust bank account. But he did not say from whom," Namandje said.

Namandje is allegedly unhappy about his affidavit being leaked to the media.

Sources close to him claim he feels he is being crucified, even though he returned around N$1,8 million from Fishcor sent to his law firm in 2019.

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