By Shinovene Immanuel and Eliaser Ndeyanale | 17 August 2020
LAWYER Marén de Klerk allegedly used Fishrot money to pay for expenses linked to Swapo’s election campaigns – from entertainment and accommodation to groceries and gadgets.
Details of these and other expenses are contained in a document submitted to the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in July this year as part of former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau’s bail hearing.
Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor declined to answer questions when contacted for comment yesterday.
“No, no. It’s a Sunday, we are busy with prayers,” she said.
The ACC said in July this year some Fishrot funds were used for Swapo campaigns.
The corruption watchdog did not explain in detail but appears to rely on a trail of bank payments of more than N$280 million made by De Klerk between 2014 and 2019.
The lawyer, who was sometimes instructed by businessman James Hatuikulipi to execute payments, allegedly made the payments through entities he co-owned such as Celax Investment Number One and law firm DHC Inc which he co-owns with Stoan Horn and Celeste Coetzee.
The two firms received millions of Fishrot money from fishing deals, including Samherji, an Icelandic seafood company accused of bribing Namibian ministers for fishing quotas.
In addition, the ACC said in court papers that De Klerk’s companies diverted around N$75 million meant for the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia.
ACC sources believe De Klerk used some of the money from Samherji and Fishcor to fund president Hage Geingob’s Swapo leadership election campaign.
The Fishrot scandal includes allegations that politicians, officials, friends and family dubiously enriched themselves through the fishing sector. It also involves allegations of buying political power.
Last month it was reported that De Klerk transferred close to N$100 million to prominent financial investment firms over the past six years. The investment firms have denied any wrongdoing.
The focus was on payments made by De Klerk for expenses linked to services provided for Swapo campaigns.
Court documents show the ACC flagged the following transactions:
• Stage Audio Works (N$1 million)
• Naftal Brand Business Solutions (N$2 million)
• Trip Travel (N$160 000)
• ‘Ndinapamwa’ (N$133 600)
• Pro Ex Studio (N$153 000)
• Omkumo Cultural Troop (N$100 000)
• KDF Entertainment (N$50 000)
• Pick n Pay (N$15 400)
• Edjonga Bed and Breakfast (N$15 600)
• Outapi Town Lodge (N$10 850)
• ‘Rundu’ (N$11 100)
• Karnic (N$25 399)
• Embroidery Zone (N$2 140)
ACC documents further show a N$106 000 payment was referenced ‘iStore Ndilimani’.
Ndilimani is Swapo’s music group which also produces election campaign songs.
This indicates De Klerk possibly paid more than N$700 000 for the benefit of certain members of the group in the past six years.
It includes the N$106 000 Apple store transaction, N$443 000 paid towards Ndilimani Cultural Troupe’s manager Jesse Nombanza’s vehicle loan in 2017, and N$150 000 allegedly transferred to another Ndilimani member, Joseph Gabriel, known as ‘Matangara’.
Sources say Ndilimani was divided during the run-up to the 2017 party congress.
Some members would only perform at Geingob’s Team Harambee gatherings and others for Team Swapo, which included former minister Jerry Ekandjo.
Nombanza, whose car loan was paid by De Klerk, was allegedly in charge of the group performing for Team Harambee, while lead singer Castro Ileni would lead performances at Team Swapo events.
Nombanza did not respond to questions sent to him over the weekend.
De Klerk’s Celax Investment paid N$975 000 towards a N$1,7 million plot Esau bought at Otjiwarongo.
Esau denied knowledge of the plot, but the ACC insisted in court that he knew about it.
Deputy minister of works and transport Veikko Nekundi and Swapo Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo were named as beneficiaries of Fishrot payouts.
They also campaigned for Geingob.
The party has not taken action against them. Another beneficiary was the Namibian National Students Organisation (Nanso).
De Klerk also paid N$8 million to Otuafika Logistics, owned by Fishrot accused Pius Mwatelulo, a relative of businessman James Hatuikulipi.
JHT, one of the companies of Esau’s son-in-law, Fitty Hatuikulipi, was also a beneficiary, receiving N$9,7 million via De Klerk’s entity.
Another of Fitty’s companies, Erongo Clearing, was paid N$1 million by De Klerk.
The lawyer also transferred N$9,1 million to Fishcor’s Seaflower Pelagic Processing, while N$1 million was paid to a certain Moyo.
The ruling party has been in denial for months.
Geingob said last month the party did not “directly” benefit from the scandal.
Those close to the president admit the party was contaminated and blame former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala for misleading Geingob’s campaign team to believe the contributions came from white-owned companies.
Questions sent to ACC director general Paulus Noa went unanswered.
De Klerk, who has provided a statement to the ACC, has been in South Africa since January this year. Sources said top ACC officials have suggested that De Klerk may turn state witness.
Lawyer Richard Metcalfe, who is representing Esau, has blasted the authorities for not acting against De Klerk.
“De Klerk, who appears to have been the paymaster, enjoys immunity from even the law society. This creates a perception of bias and racism in the eye of the public and makes De
Klerk seemingly an extra-special category lawyer,” Metcalfe told The Namibian last week.
He said lawyers have been punished for far less and risked being removed from practising.
For instance, Metcalfe said, the law society threatened to sanction himself seven years ago over comments he made in The Namibian.
“I was subjected to possible sanctions for correctly averring that lawyers are like mercenaries,” he said.
“This matter evokes a sense of duplicitous dealing and a two-faced regulator of legal practitioners,” Metcalfe said.
“Not once have the so-called bastions of regulation and ethics for lawyers spoken out against De Klerk and his apparent extra-special status,” he said.
* This article was produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit. Send us tips via your secure email to firstname.lastname@example.org.