Namibia: Opposition, PM Differ On Corruption

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Opposition lawmakers vented their anger at Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila on Wednesday after she delivered a ministerial statement outlining the government's efforts in fighting corruption and the measures the authorities had taken to address the problem.

In her statement, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said government's commitment to fighting corruption was evident in robust laws, systems and institutions established to deal with graft and enforce accountability and effective governance in the country.

She said the governance institutions and systems are properly functioning, and the autonomy of the courts and the watchdog institutions are fully respected. "The unearthing and prosecution of corruption cases are a result of the measures adopted by the government to tackle corruption, including the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Act, Whistle-blowers Act and Witness Protection Act," she said. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said that among others, the ordering of the cancellation of the irregular awarding of the upgrading tender for Hosea Kutako International Airport, action taken against plans for an Angolan oil deal which did not appear to have tangible national benefits, had it proceeded, and the action taken in the National Oil Storage project, where costs escalated due to an unfavorable contractual agreement, are clear testimony of President Geingob's commitment to fight corruption.

Also, she said, Namibia's efforts to curb corruption and promote effective governance are internationally acknowledged.

"Namibia is ranked 7th in the 2020 Mo Ibrahim index on governance for Africa. Further, the Afro Barometer ranks Namibia 2nd in its report released in January 2021, which indicated that only seven percent of the respondents in the survey conducted in Namibia reported experiencing a situation where public officials demanded bribery in exchange for public services," Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.

She said while any level of corruption is bad and is receiving decisive action by the government, it is clear that perceptions are not an accurate reflection of the actual situation.

"There is no doubt that we are making strenuous efforts as a country to fight corruption and those efforts are impactful. We, therefore, have a solid foundation on which to build in our quest to completely rid our country of corruption," she said.

All People's Party (APP) leader Ignatius Shixwameni was the first to respond to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's statement, labelling it as nothing but cheap politics at play. "If you say corruption is systematic why did Vilho (defence minister) resign, can you explain that? Corruption ... is rampant, is systematic," Shixwameni said.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani said the government was praising itself for having cancelled the National Oil Storage project tender but up to today the person who inflated the tender was nowhere to be found.

"We are talking about Fishrot, but up until now you still have Swapo Cabinet ministers that are in this House that benefited from the Fishrot money," he said.

"Government cannot lecture anyone on corruption while corruption is on your laps."

Others who joined the debate were PDM leader Vipua Muharukua, Landless People's Movement (LPM) MPs Bernadus Swartbooi and Henny Seibeb, as well as Rally for Democracy Progress president Mike Kavekotora with almost all condemning Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's statement that also distanced the ruling party and Geingob from the Fishrot scandal.

On his part, Muharukua challenged Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to explain her relationship to prominent businessman Vaino Nghipondoka who over the years has been accused of being favoured when it comes to government tenders.

Swartbooi said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's remarks showed ignorance of Swapo leaders regarding the extent of corruption in the country.

Kavekotora claimed Swapo has made corruption part of the institutions of government. "The magnitude of corruption in this country is something that needs a paradigm shift and this means the government should resign and the country hold fresh elections which could deal with corruption," he said.

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