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Conradie corruption trial resumes

2022-03-30  Roland Routh

Conradie corruption trial resumes

The long-running trial of prominent Windhoek lawyer Dirk Conradie and his friend Sara Damases resumed this week in the Windhoek High Court before Judge Thomas Masuku after a hiatus of more than a year.

The corruption trial has seen several postponements due to applications by Conradie to have some of the charges quashed, and to have recordings made by Mark Bongers and Kim Fields – the owners of advertising company DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi - during a meeting they had with Conradie and Damases, declared inadmissible as evidence.

Conradie only succeeded in having one of his charges – that he had to declare his interest when the tender was discussed in Portugal - removed from the charge-sheet.

On Monday, Justine Kanyangela, who is the investigating officer in the case, took the stand. She testified that she took over the case from Oberty Inambao, who resigned. But when she went through the docket, she found it incomplete. 

For example, she said, there was a declaration by Conradie, which stated that as chairman of the board of MTC, he had the casting vote in any decision. She then sent a query to the line ministry about this, and was informed that he did not have such. 

Conradie was the chairman of the board at that stage. 

She said when she listened to the tape recording, she found out that Conradie had also approached Hilda Basson of Ogilvy to tender for the contract. 

Basson confirmed this, and said that she declined because in her opinion, MTC does not deal with small companies like hers. 

The witness said she followed up with several other queries, including correspondence between Conradie, former prime minister Nahas Angula and former information minister Joel Kapaanda about the shareholding agreement between Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings and Portugal Telecom in MTC. 

According to her, Conradie complained that the agreement was one-sided and favoured the Portuguese in all fuctions of the company. 

He wanted the agreement amended to give the board more powers, Kanyangela said. 

Conradie and Damases face three counts of contravening the Anti-Corruption Act for allegedly attempting to bribe Bongers and his wife and business partner Fields with the massive advertising contract from MTC if they took Damases on board as a BEE partner.

Bongers made a recording of a meeting he and Fields had with Conradie and Damases in the office of Conradie on 12 June 2012, and subsequently reported the alleged bribe to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

In the recordings, Conradie can be heard asking Bongers and Fields whether they have a black economic empowerment (BEE) partner, and when Bongers answered in the negative, Conradie said that he can provide them with one.

Conradie can further be heard saying that the company of Bongers and Fields - DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi - is not the favourite to win the MTC advertising contract worth an estimated N$60 million at the time, but he could apparently change it in their favour. 

The meeting apparently took place after Damases approached Bongers at his office with a “message from the MTC chairman”. 

According to Fields, she and Bongers only agreed to the meeting out of curiosity, and because Damases introduced herself as the wife of Judge President Petrus Damaseb and as an independent consultant for MTC.

Conradie allegedly told Bongers during the meeting that he will use his position as chair of the MTC board to ensure that the advertising agency owned by Bongers and Fields gets the telecommunication giant’s N$60 million advertising tender in turn for them taking Damases on board as BEE equity in their company. 

They were arrested in June 2012 after Bongers and Fields availed a tape recording of Conradie, allegedly soliciting a bribe from them, to the ACC. 

Conradie is represented by South African senior advocate Vas Soni, instructed by advocate Slysken Makando. Vetu Uanivi is on record for Damases.

State advocate Ed Marondedze is prosecuting. The matter was postponed to 9 May, and Conradie and Damases are free on bail.

2022-03-30  Roland Routh

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