Andrew Kathindi, Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

Former Prime Minister of Namibia, Nahas Angula, is questioning why it has taken the Swapo Party of Namibia so long to suspend Fishrot accused, Sacky Shanghala and Bernard Esau, from the ruling party’s central committee and Political Bureau (politburo).

Swapo announced that the party had resolved at a Political Bureau (PB) meeting held on 31 March chaired by President Hage Geingob, to remove Esau from the politburo and to suspend both Esau and Shanghala from the party’s central committee.

“It’s better now than never. But for sure it took such a long a time. There is a requirement that if you don’t attend three consecutive meetings of the politburo without permission, you cease to be a member, but how many times did they meet since these people were incarcerated? In any case, the name of the party has been damaged.”

Whether there was a way back for the two into the central fold of the party, Angula said, “I don’t think so. But you never know. The Harambee Swapo is a different animal, which some of us don’t understand. Anything can happen. There are those who have been found guilty by court of law, some of them are still in Parliament.”

Political analyst, Henning Melber, supported Angula’s sentiments, arguing that the party’s decision to suspend Esau and Shanghala from the central committee may be a case of “too little too late”.

Esau was arrested on 23 November, 2019, while Shanghala was taken into custody a few days later on 27 November, along with fellow Fishot accused, James Hatuikulipi.

“Their suspension should be an integral part of the party’s rules and regulations, meaning that whenever serious and grave accusations are levelled in criminal investigations and in preparation of a trial, those affected should be relieved with immediate effect of their positions,” Melber told Windhoek Observer.

He was however skeptical of whether the move by the ruling party was enough to re-gain voter confidence, arguing that only the party’s hardcore supporters will take the decision as a sign of the party’s seriousness in fighting corruption.”Too many culprits remain within the higher ranks of the party and Government or State administration, who should have been reprimanded in a similar way. The overall impression among parts of the electorate of state capture, or at least corruption and embezzlement as a systemic feature, will hardly be effectively counteracted.”

“Maybe even it invited for more thoughts, wondering why now, when with the case of Vilho another scandal has entered the public domain. Is it to distract from other smokes, suggesting there are more fires?,” Angula added questioningly.

He however argued that merely suspending them from the central committee, rather than expelling them was a wise move in order not to preempt a pending investigation.

Esau and Shanghala, along with all the Fishrot accused are expected in the High Court for a pre-trial on 22 April.

University of Namibia (Unam) lecturer and political commentator, Ndumba Kamwanyah, argued that the ruling party was pressured by the public to make its decision, rather than come to the conclusion on its own. “I think they were pushed to do it now because they realised that it was going to turn the public’s opinion against the party. I would say it is too late because it has already damaged the image of the party. I don’t think that it will save them anything for now because the public has already formed opinion that they were protecting corrupters.”

Minister of Defence, Peter Vilho, recently resigned and was this week removed from his position as Member of Parliament amid corruption allegations. Swapo Spokesperson, Hilma Nicanor, maintained that the party had not benefitted from the “Fishrot”, arguing rather that it was corrupt individuals in the party, which did not make the ruling party corrupt.

“As Swapo Party, we do not condone corruption. It was the Swapo Party through its Government, that has put in place instruments of combating corruption and the fact that the duo in question are in custody, facing serious allegations, is a clear testimony to our quest in combating corruption,” Said.

“This proves that our Anticorruption instruments are working and as a party we call upon all caring Namibians to become the vanguard of our democracy and good governance, by reporting all the suspected crimes to the Anti-Corruption Commission or the Namibian Police,” Nicanor added.