SA can learn from Namibia on how to deal with corruption

By Nompumelelo Runjii

NAMIBIA has been hit by a major corruption and bribery scandal in its fisheries industry involving top politicians, as well as local and Icelandic business people.

SA can take a leaf out of Namibia’s book in regard to accountability and consequence management. Following the leaking of documents by an employee of Samherji, a fishing company in Iceland, Al Jazeera conducted an undercover operation which implicated former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala and former fisheries minister Bernardt Esau.

The pair and four others stand accused of colluding with Samherji and soliciting bribes in return for fishing quotas. Though denying any guilt, these people resigned after the news broke and were arrested on the day of Namibia’s general election last week. The pair have since abandoned their bail application.

Others to fall on their swords include James Hatuikulipi - former chairperson of Fishcor, Namibia’s state-owned fishing company - and Mar Baldvinsson, former CEO of Samherji.

Samherji is undertaking an internal investigation under immense public pressure for the Icelandic political and business elite to root out corruption.

This is swift action on the part of Namibian law enforcement. All this happened in the space of two weeks.

The implicated ministers didn’t wait for protracted internal party processes. They also didn’t wait for government censure before acknowledging the responsibility to deal with the allegations against them away from their official duties.

It didn’t matter that they are close to Hage Geingob, the re-elected Namibian president and president of South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo), the country’s governing party, which has been in power since Namibia’s independence in 1990.

The party has since removed former ministers Shanghala and Esau from the National Assembly.

The message is clear: Geingob and Swapo do not just talk tough on corruption, they act decisively on it. Compelling the former ministers to step aside while dealing with their legal woes is not a pronouncement on their guilt or innocence but an acknowledgement that their run in with the law should not get in the way of the running of the state.

Consequence management is about managing the risk that improper conduct and non-compliance by officials has on the state.

SA suffers from a chronic lack of consequence management which sees politicians at the highest level failing to accept the obligation to step aside when facing allegations of impropriety so as to protect the integrity of the government and state institutions.

It has been over a year of the Zondo Commission into state capture arising from a public protector report into how the Gupta family compromised a president and the government.

Despite damning revelations, there has been little in the way of consequences. Clearly, SA can draw some lessons from Namibia.

Comment on Twitter @NompumeleloRun