Namibia: Ombudsman Defends Visit to De Klerk

23 February 2021

OMBUDSMAN John Walters says his visit to fugitive lawyer Marén de Klerk, who has been implicated in the Namibian fishing industry corruption scandal that led to the arrest of two former ministers and a number of co-accused, is common practice for his office.

Walters said he visited De Klerk recently to provide him the opportunity to exercise his rights to complain to the ombudsman.

"He did not feel comfortable to put his complaint in writing or to travel to Namibia. After receipt of his complaint I advised him to approach a competent court in terms of Article 25(2) of our Constitution to enforce his fundamental rights," he said.

Walters did not go into the conversation, saying it is confidential.

"The rest of our conversation is confidential," he added.

The ombudsman said all people have the right to complain and the right of access to the ombudsman.

"Through our work we raised these rights to fundamental rights. I also ensured that the new ombudsman bill provides expressly for these rights," he said.

The Namibian last month reported that De Klerk had told Anti-Corruption Commission investigators how his law firm was used to transfer millions of dollars alleged to be part of a corruption scheme by prominent Swapo members and government officials to advance the interests of the ruling party.

Walters said their annual reports reflect their common practice of complaint intake clinics where they visit all places of detention to receive complaints from inmates and police officers and inspect facilities, and the same applies to childcare facilities.

"We travel thousands of kilometre every year to reach vulnerable communities in order for them to exercise their rights to complain to the ombudsman. Last year I travelled to the Omungwelume Police Station to investigate a complaint on the alleged violation of inmates' right of access to water," he said.

He further explained how he visited a woman at Swakopmund in December who wanted to see him regarding her complaints, and took another trip with his colleagues in January to address her complaints and other complaints. The investigation is ongoing.

"This morning, I received a complaint about violation of rights of inmates who are detained at Ruacana Police Station. I requested colleagues at our regional office at Ongwediva to travel to Ruacana to address their complaints immediately," he added.

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