Public need for justice is being denied

Justice is not served by constant delays in the fishrot case. These postponements deny the public a front-row seat to see if corruption is stronger than the constitution. The people have demanded to witness the prosecution of the fishrot accused. Let us get on with it.

What does it say about the case if these men languish in pandemic-unsafe jails, in limbo? How often will the prosecution, ACC and police put their tails between their legs and beg the magistrate for more time to get their cases together?

Namibia has an overall problem with a sluggish arrest, investigation, and trial process. People who are accused of committing crimes 10 years ago are only standing before the courts now. We must not allow those responsible for this overloaded, slow-moving judiciary system to blame their woes on the pandemic. We have had this plodding system for decades.

Magistrate Vanessa Stanley allowed a ‘final’ postponement in the Fishcor and Nangomar Pesca court cases. The state said they need more time to arrange their evidence against the accused. But the story broke on Fishrot a year ago. The magistrate says the case will begin on December 14th and that no further delays will be allowed. We will believe that when we see it.

The typical December holiday out-of-town stampede in Namibia and the state of emergency are primed to cause more delays. But, the point is well taken that this thing cannot continue to drag on. If there was enough probable cause for the arrests, then where is the evidence to back that up?

Each time the state asks for more time to assemble their case, the nation shivers. Regardless of mantras about people being innocent until proven guilty, the nation is convinced about the fishrot scandal. People believe all that has been said by the Icelandic fish company’s whistle-blower; they will always remember that video with former minister Esau.

The nation awaits the trial on whether Namibia is a corrupt country or not. Rightly or wrongly, that is now what the fishrot trial symbolises.

The people expect to see clear evidence of theft of ‘large amounts of money.’ There would be a national gasp of frustration if these men are charged with misdemeanour administrative violations and ‘time served’ and then go home after the case.

Will we see these acquitted men walk out to smiling crowds of people wearing party colours and back-slapping the released comrades? Will there be women ululating as the fishrot men raise their fists and get into their luxury cars to go to their luxury homes after they pay a mere fine?

The country has been rocked to its core for nearly a year, fingers are being pointed everywhere, to what end? We smell the smoke from the gun without being able to see the weapon yet.

While the spotlight is on the fishrot accused, there are other accused men and women languishing for years in overcrowded, gang-organized prisons. They have not been convicted or even tried. Most are locked up while their cases only slowly emerge in court once and a while. They are too poor to afford bail. In the prison, there isn’t enough food, supplies or humane space in the cells. There is no budget to make meaningful changes.

In effect, an accused that faces a two year jail sentence can be left in jail awaiting trial for two years, and then have their cases withdrawn or be found not-guilty. And yet, they already served the sentence.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Regarding the accused fishrot case, the victims of the denied justice are the people of Namibia. Is there equal justice under the law or an Animal Farm scenario where some are more equal than others?

These delays may taint the credibility of those in power and makes everyone assume corruption is everywhere, whether true or not. It weakens the country at a trying time when we need to be more unified than ever before.

This is exhausting the nation.

The public is tired of smoke-and-mirrors, talk, and accusations. They demand a conclusion and a conviction (if evidence dictates this). They do not want to keep hearing about ‘fishrot accused’ and what to see the ‘fishrot convicted’ march off to jail.

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