How the stench of corruption infected every aspect of Namibian society

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Former justice minister Sacky Shanghala sates his thirst during a 2019 interview with Al Jazeera as the reporter presents him with evidence of questionable funds transferred to him.

Besides the damage to the fishing industry and marine life, let’s look at how the wider Namibian economy and society were affected and infected by the #fishrot fraud and bribery operation.

1. The banking and financial system was central to the entire operation, as none of the transactions could be effected without the compliance and or connivance of the bankers and major asset management companies.

2. Estate agencies and property developers helped funnel vast amounts of illicit funds into the local and overseas property market, where it could be hidden, among others, in housing and major construction projects, thus also setting up the fishrot beneficiaries as rent lords.

3. Law firms and lawyers, seemingly blinded by the lust for money, undermined the integrity of the entire legal system when they drafted dubious contracts with clearly corrupt and criminal intent, and facilitated dodgy illegal payments.

4. Accountants and accredited auditors were used by the fishing companies implicated in the multi-billion dollar fraud and money-laundering scandal to sign off on their dubious financial records, so auditing firms effectively helped to cover the traces of criminality and facilitate epic fraud and tax evasion.

5. Musicians and artists were reportedly paid from fishrot money to sing songs of praise for their paymasters in the Swapo Party in the run-up to elections, and some reportedly became millionaires overnight as a result of such political patronage.

6. Cabinet and parliament were implicated, as they passed dubious amendments to the Fisheries law to enable this corrupt scheme (as well as the crooked Angola currency conversion scheme) while many MPs, ministers, governors and party operatives are said to have a direct stake.

7. Fisheries and justice ministry officials are heavily implicated, and from the evidence and paper trail it is hard to believe that there was not a secretive network of accomplices within the government bureaucracy that conspired to defraud the nation for own benefit.

7. Members of the police were also implicated, because as we have seen in recent weeks, at least one police officer was arrested for attempting to interfere with and subvert the ongoing investigation by removing evidence from the ACC offices to aid the suspects.

8. The ruling party Swapo has been the major institutional beneficiary of the tens of millions of dollars that were reportedly used to buy support, bribe comrades and secure electoral victories. The entire political power structure and the electoral results appear to be tainted by deep-going criminality.

9. Given the comrades’ apparent proclivity for prostitutes and parties, it is conceivable that their ill-gotten cash also cascaded down into the skin trade and the wider illicit economy.

10. This shows that — contrary to what some politicians might say — that corruption is indeed systemic and pervades every aspect of Namibian society, particularly the upper strata and respected professions, including lawyers, auditors, MPs, award-winning artists, government officials, ministers and their families.

Swapo’s endemic culture of corruption has over time induced a sense of moral rot in the wider society, as well-dressed criminals who amassed great fortunes by defrauding the public were presented as role models for the youth, as people to look up to and emulate.

As we can see, this culture of criminality goes way beyond the fishing industry and stretches to the very top. We should call it by its proper name: SwapoRot.

Writer, reporter, activist

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