Kuzeeko Tjitemisa and
Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa yesterday explained that the reported N$50 000 paid to South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi was for his services during the 2018 second national land conference, where the charismatic public speaker and activist delivered a research paper.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) served Ngcukaitobi, who is representing Namibians implicated in the Fishrot scandal, with a summons on Wednesday while in the Windhoek High Court.
He is the lawyer representing Namibia’s former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and his co-accused in their bid to have their warrants of arrest declared unlawful.
The ACC wanted Ngcukaitobi to explain why a N$50 000 payment was made to him in October 2018 by state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).
The company is at the centre of the unfolding an international fishing bribery scandal implicating Namibian politicians and business people. “The amount of N$50 000 paid to Advocate Ngcukaitobi was an honorarium for the work done at the land conference,” Simataa said in a statement yesterday.
“For the sake of convenience, it was agreed that state-owned companies should provide their assistance directly to the conference, including the payments of service providers and individuals that will deliver their services to the land conference.”
Simataa said Fishcor also provided financial assistance towards the payment of the production of conference materials, tickets and accommodation, as well as per diems for the international guest speakers, such as US-based Nigerian academic Dr Joseph Okpaku and others who delivered research papers at the land conference.
“The request for state-owned companies to assist towards the hosting of the conference was done in good faith. When Fishcor donated the money to the conference in October 2018, it was not known that this company was involved in the alleged bribery and corruption scandal,” Simataa added.
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah yesterday said Simataa’s explanation is “unconvincing justification”. “[It] sounds more like a cover-up. It raises more questions as to why Fishcor would pay its donation directly to a third party. The contract was between the government and the lawyer. In a normal situation, Fishcor would have paid its donation to the government and then the government would pay its contractors,” he charged.
“To pay N$50 000 just for presenting a 20-minute paper sounds unreasonable. Whoever approved such arrangement, especially during a time when Namibia was under deteriorating economic condition, does not have fiscal prudence,” he added.
Malema to the defence
Meanwhile, after news broke on social media that Ngcukaitobi was summoned over the Fishcor payment, firebrand South African politician Julius Malema leapt to the defence of his compatriot, seemingly accusing Namibian authorities of interfering in the work of lawyers. “If Namibia wants to be taken seriously, it should stop the interference with lawyers through fake news and harassment. @TambekaNgcukai1 should do his work in Namibia without fear or favour,” Malema tweeted.
Namibians, including local lawyers who took the Economic Freedom Fighters leader on, did not take Malema’s sentiments lightly. “Where’s the fake news and harassment? Adv. Tembeka needs to explain the payment, end of story. Any advocate in Namibia would be asked to explain. Nothing fishy there,” responded former magistrate Ruth Herunga.
Outspoken human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe also had something to say. “Thank you for commenting on Namibia. But, could you perhaps use your spare energy to ask VBS to pay back our money they stole from SME Bank of Namibia,” tweeted Tjombe.