‘Whistleblowers Need Protection’

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By Max Hamata WINDHOEK Namibia’s graft fight has ignited mounting pressure on government to legislate the protection of whistleblowers from harassment and victimisation. Lauding President Hifi-kepunye Pohamba zero-tolerance policy on corruption, several participants at the first national conference on corporate governance and anti-corruption also appealed to Namibia’s lawmakers to legislate the protection of whistleblowers with the similar commitment that the Head of State has demonstrated. Said prominent controversial whistleblower Sophia Tekkie, whose exposÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© prompted an investigation by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Roads Authority: “Witnesses were and some are still being victimized, harassed, sidelined, intimidated, some fired, some in the process of being fired, some forced to resign, some ended up to be alcoholic, some contracts were terminated without proper procedures, promotions denied, bad references given to other employers so that the victims will not be employed as they are seen as threats.” She claimed that some of the witnesses’ phones were tapped; some were threatened even with their lives. She said the anti-corruption drive should not only be seen as President Pohamba’s project and politicians and lawmakers should join in his efforts by showing practical commitment by protecting whistleblowers. “How will future whistle-blowers come forward if the present ones are suffering for telling the truth? Let it be remembered that Namibia is a small place – almost everyone knows the other one way or the other. “Any person who tries to rock the boat or question some inconsistent decisions, his fate is to be fired. Names are given to these people; they are frustrated and are left alone to die a natural death. They do not know where to go, how to expose because they will know their lives will be miserable,” she added. “The question will remain, is it good to launch a new ACC if there is no protection for witnesses and if witnesses are given names daily in the papers and in the corridors? For this process to be effective and efficient the highest decision makers need without any further delay put up a whistleblowing protection law,” Tekkie pointed out. Echoing the same concerns, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)’s Regional Director Kaitira Kandjii said Namibia just like many other Southern African countries does not protect whistleblowers. “On the whole the SADC region lacks legal instruments like legislation on the protection of whistleblowers and protection of disclosure of information. Notably there is also a lack of legislation that compels authorities to make information accessible to the public.” He said the Namibian anti-corruption legislation does not provide for the role of media in fighting corruption. “Nowhere is the media mentioned as a key stakeholder in the fight against corruption especially in the aspect of public awareness/public campaigns and public education on corruption.” There is little protection for media when covering corruption and unearthing major incidences of corruption, particularly government corruption.