Retained Namibian government cracks first whip against corruption

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From Alfred Shilongo in Windhoek

The prompt arrest and initial court appearance of
some former government officials implicated in the so-called Fish-rot
scandal, coinciding with the endorsement of incumbent President Hage
Geingob and the South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo), is a
clear indication tackling corruption will be top of the agenda in the
new five years.

Six suspects, including two former cabinet ministers, were recently
arrested for their alleged involvement in the scandal that saw kickbacks
of at least N$150 million (US$10 million) reportedly paid for the
awarding of a contract to Iceland’s biggest fishing firm.

Former Minister of Justice, Sacky Shanghala, and the ex-Minister of
Fisheries, Bernhard Esau, who resigned from their cabinet positions
after the expose, have appeared in court alongside James Hatuikulipi, who
had resigned from his position as chairman of Fishcor.

The suspects appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court in the capital
city where their case has been postponed to February 20.

“The prompt arrest of the suspects and their appearance in court is the
first crack of the whip against corruption by the incoming government,”
said analyst, Petrus Shihepu.

Neville Mandimika, Africa analyst in the global markets division of the
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), noted the scandal could partly be to blame for
the ruling party losing its two-thirds majority in the National
Assembly.

He highlighted that the decrease in popularity for Swapo could also
partly be attributed to the ailing economy that has been ravaged by
Namibia’s worst-ever drought that led to a three-year recession.

“In addition, the recent fishing scandal would have taken the shine off
the ruling party,” Mandimika said.

Thus a grueling task lies ahead for President Geingob and Swapo, in not only
reviving the country’s prospects but also addressing an apparent decline
in fortunes for the ruling party.

While arresting the economic decline and inequality, the fact that the
incumbent and one of Africa’s longest-ruling parties saw its two-thirds
majority broken, suggests Swapo has its work cut out for it in
revitalising its decades-long dominance of the political landscape.

The emergence of the upsetting corruption scandal implicating some
then-cabinet ministers ahead of the election is an indication that
tackling graft would feature prominently in Geingob’s new five-year
term.

Geingob, at the helm since 2014, has secured a new mandate after
receiving 56 percent of the votes, ahead of fellow party member,
Panduleni Itula (29 percent), who ran as an independent.

The ruling party, in power since independence in 1990, now occupies 63
of the 96 parliamentary seats, while the official opposition, Popular
Democratic Movement (PDM), now has 16 seats, up from five in the 2014
election.

In 2014, Geingob, cruised to 86,74 percent for his first term while his
party secured 80 percent.

Mandimika noted the two-thirds majority had always been vital in terms
of policy formulation and execution.

The analyst highlighted that the decrease in popularity for the ruling
party could partly be attributed to the ailing economy that has been
ravaged by Namibia’s worst-ever drought that led to a three-year
recession.

Shihepu attributed the decline in Geingob’s victory margin to the fact
that Itula’s participation split the vote.

“As such, the president has to ensure he addresses the factionalism
within the ruling party. It remains to be seen if he (President Geingob)
and Itula can reach out to each other and help heal the divisions and
take Swapo forward.

That seems unlikely for now with Itula running a vilification campaign
against the party on social media.

Following his re-election, Gaingob thanked Namibians for the
endorsement.

“I am humbled and commit to serve the Namibian nation with more passion
and utmost dedication, to bring tangible improvements in the lives of
our citizens. I have heard you (citizens),” he said.

His re-election comes at a time the Southern African country is going
through an economic decline.

The economy, beset by unemployment of over 33 percent, is projected to
weaken for a third consecutive year.

This is attributed to drought and dwindling prices of diamonds and uranium
in the export markets. Namibia is enduring its worst drought in close to
a century with some 300 000 people facing food insecurity.

Inequality, with Namibia’s Gini coefficient put at 74.3, is also
concerning. The index is often used as a gauge of economic inequality. A
coefficient of zero indicates a perfectly equal distribution of income
or wealth.

Namibia is also beset by disease outbreaks, including a Hepatitis E virus
outbreak which has claimed 56 lives in recent months.

- CAJ News








 

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