PDM wants independent inquiry into fishrot

By Paulina Ndalikokule

POPULAR Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani has said in no uncertain terms that his party does not welcome the appointment of acting Fisheries Minister Albert Kawana as investigator of the #fishrot scandal that has engulfed the local fishing industry and high-profile politicians.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Venaani stressed that PDM rejects the appointment of Kawana and would prefer that an independent commission – with no links to the ruling party or fishing industry – be set up to investigate the matter.

“This issue is of national importance… In fact, since Kawana is purportedly a person with high legal qualifications, one would have expected him to refuse to accept this assignment as there is clearly a conflict of interest,” the PDM leader said.

He claimed that the reason President Hage Geingob was suddenly galvanized into taking action about something that has been all over the media for weeks may be that he fears what is yet to be revealed.

Venaani further claimed that Geingob wants to fob off the public outrage by tasking a hand-picked member of his Cabinet to investigate the scandal. “This will not fly as it is clear that the entire Cabinet has a dog in this race,” he remarked.

President Geingob recently ordered Kawana to investigate the affairs of the state-owned fishing company, Fishcor, and the line ministry over the last ten years. The attorney-general stepped in as acting fisheries minister following the sudden resignation of Bernhard Esau for alleged bribery and corruption earlier this month.

Home Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi has since replaced Sacky Shangala at the Ministry of Justice.

Geingob instructed Kawana to review the affairs of the ministry and Fishcor with a view to making appropriate recommendations. “And in cases where Kawana may discover instances of maladministration to take corrective measures and such legal steps as he, himself, deems necessary,” Geingob at Swapo’s final mass rally that concluded its campaign in Windhoek on Saturday.

The Head of State also tasked Kawana to undertake an assessment and evaluation of the existing processes and procedures relating to the management and administration of the country’s marine resources. He said after the assessment, Kawana is expected to make recommendations to him on how to prevent and eliminate instances of maladministration, nepotism and or corruption – if that is found.

Venaani also accused the director general of the Anti-Corruption Commission Paulus Noa of dragging out corruption cases for as long as possible and protecting fellow Swapo members. “We do not support what ACC is doing, they should do thorough investigations. People in other countries are already arrested, but in our country we are failing to submit a warrant of arrest. It tells you that the ACC does not do its work.”

He demanded that Noa apologise publicly for being part of a Swapo WhatApp group discussing cases of corruption. “We are dealing with a … compromised chief of ACC, and if Noa does not beef up his office we’re going after him. He owes this country an apology!” he fumed.

Noa in a recent interview with Confidente explained that he was added to many WhatsApp groups, including those of political parties, without his prior knowledge or authorisation. “I don’t say anything on those groups until they asked about the video from WikiLeaks. [I explained] that it could not provide sufficient evidence that can lead to an arrest of someone as the court of law seeks sufficient evidence.”

He said the ACC would not protect anyone involved in the bribes-for-quotas scandal and potential money laundering. The ACC has reportedly been working on the case for five years. It received a full set of leaked internal documents a year ago, reporters from Iceland confirmed yesterday.

Noa revealed that they have a list of suspects, which will likely lead to more arrests soon, following the botched arrest of Esau on Saturday. The former minister was released from custody on Sunday after his lawyers successfully argued that the warrant for his arrest was “defective”.

“We are seriously working on this matter involving all stakeholders, including the police and the Financial Intelligence Centre, since 2014 and I can tell you it will not take us too long before someone is held accountable,” Noa said.