The National Fishing Corporation of Namibia has asked Chief Justice Peter Shivute to permit Fishrot’s self-proclaimed “paymaster” and lawyer Maren de Klerk to testify via video link.
The company decided to petition Shivute after the high court in January refused them leave to appeal last year’s ruling in the Supreme Court.
In October 2022, judge Orben Sibeya dismissed an application by Fishcor to have De Klerk give evidence via video link in the case in which the company wants to rid itself of several fishing agreements that were concluded by some of the key figures in the ongoing multi-million-dollar Fishrot bribery case.
The company claims, in High Court documents, that various agreements concluded by then Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi, former fisheries minister Benhardt Esau, former Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya and Adriaan Louw, who represented both Africa Selection Fishing Namibia (ASF) and Seaflower Pelagic Processing, were not made in good faith.
Fishcor also claims they were entered into corruptly and fraudulently.
Thus, De Klerk’s testimony is crucial to the ongoing proceedings.
In their petition, Fishcor’s board chairperson Milka Mungunda said although criminal proceedings are ongoing, there is a need to clean up Fishcor.
She said De Klerk’s evidence is crucial to what Fishcor wants to achieve – getting rid of the dubious contracts.
“Mr De Klerk is the only witness who can give direct evidence concerning the corrupt scheme and the meeting in the Western Cape on 30 December 2016, attended by De Klerk himself, Sacky Shanghala, James Hatuikulipi and Adriaan Louw, where the plans to action the corrupt scheme were discussed in detail,” said Mungunda.
Mungunda said the only way to obtain De Klerk’s testimony is via video link, as his whereabouts are unknown: the Namibian police, with the help of Interpol, has not been able to locate him, despite there being a warrant of arrest against him.
Thus, for the interest of the public and the administration of justice, the court must allow De Klerk to give his testimony via video link.
De Klerk’s stance
According to De Klerk’s affidavit, he admits to having “unwittingly” committed various crimes connected to the Fishrot saga.
The scheme involved himself, then attorney general Shanghala, Louw, Hatuikulipi and Louw’s financial advisor Johannes Breed.
He said apart from Breed, the group met on 30 December 2016 to discuss a venture that has the “capacity to make them a lot of money”, allegedly according to Shanghala.
“He (Shanghala) explained that in his capacity to vet all government agreements, he was in a position to approve a proposed joint venture between Fishcor and an entity to be created in Namibia,” stated De Klerk.
This, he said, led to the creation of Seaflower.
According to De Klerk, Shanghala informed the group there would be an amendment to the fishing legislation, which would result in the creation of a land-based fish-processing plant.
In addition, those amendments would open the door for a joint venture between Fishcor and local and Angolan investors in the fishing sector.
Shanghala allegedly introduced Louw as one of the biggest players in the sector, and the latter already had discussions with Esau.
Louw, as a result of the amendments, would enjoy the preferential right to all and any business opportunities.
“Shanghala explained to me he was in effect under ‘instruction’ from minister Esau to ensure the agreements were to be concluded with Louw,” said De Klerk.
To give effect to the scheme, De Klerk claims he intimately became involved by advising and giving input to various agreements that are now under Fishcor’s microscope.
He said other lawyers involved in the drafting of the agreements were Fishcor’s lawyers Ellis Shilengunwa Inc and in particular Peter Johns.
He said the whole scheme could not have been possible without Shanghala and Esau facilitating from the government’s side, Hatuikulipi and Nghipunya at Fishcor, and Louw and Breed at ASF and Seaflower.
The case will be in court on 30 March.