Print logo

Fishrot Legacies Still Looming
IPPR 2015-2020 Governance Report

On 13 November 2020, IPPR launched its latest Namibian Governance Report at a public briefing held at the House of Democracy in which it presented a critical overview of the performance of President Hage Geingob’s government in meeting the leader’s professed commitments to transparent and accountable leadership during his first five years in office.

Disappointing Outcomes

However, despite these initially positive indicators, the IPPR reported that little tangible progress has been made in ensuring critical legal protections for those who raise the alarm about potential corruption cases such as the Whistle Blower and Witness Protection Acts of 2017 while only fifteen out of seventy-five actions have so far been completed in the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan since its establishment in 2016. 

Moreover, movement has been low in the passing of an access to information bill in Parliament and there still exist no standardised laws on assets and interests’ declarations for political office-bearers. Notably, although MPs are supposed to declare their assets on an annual basis in accordance with the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament Act (1996), the Report shows that this requirement has not be adequately regulated or enforced.

Other Factors

While the Report’s findings lamented the Geingob government’s incapacity to live up to its own anti-corruption credentials, IPPR also acknowledged other actors and conditions that contributed to this poor performance. Not only was the Report compiled in a period of ”significant economic turmoil fuelled by drought, declining investment, and high unemployment” but it was noted that government initiatives did not receive adequate buy-in from private, civil society stakeholders or independent institutions. In the case of the Anti-Corruption Commission, for example, former Director General Paulus Noa has been accused of blocking investigations and closing corruption cases prematurely. 

Troubling Projections

With the unfolding case against the Fishrot Scandal accused continuing to dominate the headlines, the key question arising from the 2015-2020 Governance Report was whether the corruption exposed in November 2019 could happen again in Namibia. According to Graham Hopwood, the short answer is yes, a similar scenario to Fishrot could still happen for the following reasons:

  • An ongoing lack of meaningful asset declaration architecture;
  • A Fisheries Ministry still shrouded in secrecy;
  • Corporate ownership records continue to be difficult to locate;
  • A lack of substantive protections for whistle-blowers;
  • Little transparency in government contracting procedures; 
  • The allocation of licensing agreements and resource quotas still allows for a high degree of discretion by political officials. 

However, while this clear lack of institutional reform does not bode well for standards of good governance and the rule of law in Namibia, Hopwood insisted in his concluding analysis that President Geingob still has time to turn the tide away from the damaging legacies of Fishrot by becoming a champion of anti-corruption during his second term in office. 

Written by: Kitty Mcgirr (HSF Intern)