FORMER Swapo secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana says the ruling party has been hijacked by money and leaders who bought their way into positions.
Anti-Corruption Commission investigator Willem Olivier testified in court yesterday that the N$17,5 million from state-owned Fishcor that was paid into the law firm Sisa Namandje & Company’s account was used for a Swapo election campaign. The payments were made in 2015 and 2017.
The Namibian has in the past reported that president Hage Geingob and his faction of Swapo were funded through Fishrot funds.
Iivula-Ithana was among the Swapo leaders who suffered heavy defeat at the 2017 congress which saw president Hage Geingob and his team take charge of the ruling party.
There are now calls to prosecute Swapo for benefiting from the national fishing company through funds generated from the Fishrot scandal.
The Namibian asked Iivula-Ithana and other commentators for their reactions to the ACC’s claim that the ruling party benefited from Fishrot funds.
“The party was hijacked with money,” Iivula-Ithana said yesterday.
She said the signs were there before and after Swapo’s congress which elected Hage Geingob as party president.
“One did not just know where that money had come from. All the signs were there that there was money being splashed. We learnt that people were given envelopes with money after the congress,” Iivula-Ithana said.
According to her, they were informed back then that some people were acting as paymasters.
“The vision of the party is lost completely when people are doing as they like yet there is a constitution of the party. The constitution is set aside for personal gains,” the former home affairs minister said.
Iivula-Ithana doubts whether the current party leadership will restore Swapo’s glory days.
“What kept us together is the adherence to the principles of the party and suppressing our individualities,” she added.
Former Swapo member Panduleni Itula, who supported the defeated ‘Team Swapo’ slate at the 2017 congress, said the evidence revealed in court implicating the ruling party seems to point to “a real organised criminal activity perpetrated by those entrusted with our natural resources”.
Itula who contested the presidential elections against incumbent Hage Geingob last year, said the ruling party should pronounce itself on the Fishrot scandal if it was innocent.
“A nation cannot be led by potential thieves of national resources. The action of the Swapo leadership in stealing from the nation will be the worst scar. Those in the august house appear to be products of proceeds of money laundering,” Itula said.
Former prime minister Nahas Angula said the current Swapo leadership should resign because they were elected through Fishrot funded campaigns.
“Some of us knew about it [vote buying]. Someone from the fishing industry called me a few weeks after the Swapo congress and said the congress was a farce,” Angula told The Namibian yesterday.
“The person said N$15 million was paid to the Harambe campaign,” Angula said.
Angula said revelations of Swapo’s funding through the Fishrot scandal shows that its leadership was elected illegitimately. “We can see that some people are holding offices illegally.”
The former premier said he does not know how Namibians are interpreting news that the governing party benefited from alleged money laundering from a state entity.
“They are supposed to step down if they respect themselves. It [election] was tainted. All of them should go to prison if found guilty,” Angula said.
Asked if he is only calling for this because he lost out, Angula said “I am only defending democracy. The [election] process was tainted”.
Some of the ruling party leaders who benefited from the Fishrot scandal include Geingob’s campaign and his former supporters such as Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu.
Others who received Fishrot funds include Swapo Party Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo and deputy transport minister Veikko Nekundi.
Nekongo often attacks Geingob’s opponents. He recently challenged those claiming that Geingob and Swapo benefited from Fishrot funds to produce evidence of that.
Last year he said some senior members of the party, who were defeated at the 2017 elective congress, are to blame for the divisions in the party.
Nekongo and Nekundi have denied any wrongdoing.
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah yesterday said the recent revelations in court show that the ruling party was deeply involved in the Fishrot scandal.
Kamwanyah said he was puzzled at the manner in which the ruling party has been silent on the matter without taking steps to clear its name.
He said the fact that Swapo has not yet instituted an internal investigation to establish the facts of this matter was a clear indication that the ruling party had something to hide.
“The reality is that it seems Swapo is implicated in the Fishrot deeper and deeper. I don’t think the angry reactions and denials will help them. It could be that there were only a few individuals who were involved in the Fishrot, but why is the ruling party afraid to internally investigate such serious allegations? If other people that are involved are in jail, one would say that Swapo must also be in jail for that matter,” Kamwanyah said.
Institute for Public Policy Research director Graham Hopwood told The Namibian yesterday that the recent revelation involving the ruling party shows that Namibia needs a complete clean-up of political party funding.
“It is clear that the accountability system set out in the Electoral Act for party funding is not working. We need a system where every donation to a party above N$5 000 has to be declared publicly and that there is a body – perhaps a political integrity commissioner – who can check these things and investigate when things look suspicious,” Hopwood said.
Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani yesterday took to social media calling on the ruling party to pay back the money it received through the Fishrot scandal. Venaani posted on his Twitter account: “Whoever authorised these transactions must be answerable in a competent court of law. ACC must tell us why implicated lawyers are not apprehended till now”.
Swapo information secretary Hilma Nikanor did not comment on the recent revelation yesterday. She said she was in a meeting when contacted for comment.
Swapo’s executive director Austin Samupwa yesterday also refused to comment on the revelation, saying the matter was still in the court.
“I will have to check what was said and respond in full. I don’t know why you keep on calling the Swapo party. It is before the court and we cannot start speaking about matters that are before the court,” Samupwa said.
The party’s youth league secretary Ephraim Nekongo was also in “a short meeting” and could not comment yesterday. His information secretary, Gerson Lineekela Dumeni, refused to comment and referred The Namibian to Nekongo.