MPs accuse ACC of witch-hunt

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Windhoek

Swapo parliamentarians have expressed concern over the manner in which the Anti-Corruption Commission
(ACC) does its work, with some claiming they are being unfairly targeted because of the positions they
hold. Ruling party MPs came out in the National Assembly on Wednesday with guns blazing when they discussed the
re-appointment of ACC director general Paulus Noa and his deputy Erna van der Merwe for another five years.

Although MPs approved the appointments, as recommended by the President Hage Geingob, they used the opportunity to castigate the work of the commission, while others narrated how they were apparently unfairly
targeted in the past. The ACC became operational on February 1, 2006. Since its inception, it received over 4 000 reports of alleged corruption and malpractice.

Amongst the proposals is for the ACC to be stripped of its arrest and investigation powers; the appointment
of more commissioners to assist the directors when it comes to deciding which cases to pursue; and term limits
for the directors. Some of those who are against the manner in which ACC conducts its operations were in the past investigated for alleged corrupt practices. Some were even jailed for it.

Attorney General Sakeus Shanghala wants the ACC to be stripped of some of its arresting and investigating
powers.

Shanghala also wants term limits to be set for the ACC director general and his deputy. “I hope this is their last term,
because they have been there since the ACC’s inception. I’m sure there are also other competent Namibians
who can do the job,” Shanghala said. “ACC is an organisation that works with journalists. Moments before arresting
a suspect, the media is already aware. Those of us in decision-making positions are even investigated for exercising our powers.” Their powers of arrest must be taken away, Shanghala proposed, adding that only the police should have such powers.

Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said the ACC is being used as a “tool to
witch-hunt some of us”. The former Hardap governor knows how it feels to have the ACC breathing down
one’s neck, after she was arrested in 2009 on a charge related to corruption. She was accused of corruptly
using her position as governor to obtain N$2 000 from the entertainment budget of the Hardap Regional
Council under the pretext of holding a Christmas party for elderly people in Aranos, but the party never took place. She was acquitted. “I was perhaps one of the first senior government officials to be embarrassingly arrested and the
bad part is that you are charged and prosecuted in the newspapers, even before you reach the court, by being
labelled a corrupt person,” said a visibly infuriated Hanse-Himarwa.

Hanse-Himarwa was again subjected to corruption claims earlier this year, after her son and some relatives were allocated resettlement farms in the Hardap Region. Fisheries Minister Bernard Esau said the Anti-Corruption Act is being abused by some individuals. He claimed that the ACC is challenging the validity of court judgements
by investigating cases on which the courts have already pronounced themselves.

“They [ACC] should understand the relationship between themselves and the courts. “By investigating cases that have passed through the courts they are implying that they are superior to the court,” he said. The ACC earlier this year investigated Esau over the alleged corrupt allocation of fishing quotas, worth in excess of N$280 million to close
associates. “We are not against the ACC, but they must be transparent in their approach. Sometimes they
investigate officials in your ministry, but they do not even inform you,” he said.

Higher Education Deputy Minister Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo wants the roles of the police and ACC to be clearly defined and discouraged the ACC from sharing reports with the media until such time as they reach the courts.
“People should be given time to explain themselves. We continue having a situation whereby newspapers
know about a report before the suspects,” she said. Information and Communication Technology Minister Tjekero Tweya also questioned the manner in which ACC officials carry out their duties: “I think it is high time we
remind the ACC of their mandate, because everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

“The behaviour of ACC investigators, who go to suspects with the media, must stop. The abuse of media
and tarnishing of citizens’ characters cannot be condoned.” According to Tweya, “Even in court the names of suspects are not released until he or she appears. If they cannot observe this basic legal principle then we need to remind them that they must respect the law.” The ACC also came under fire in 2010 when it failed to investigate
how the children of top government officials, such as that of former president Hifikepunye Pohamba,
several Cabinet ministers and senior military and police officers acquired scholarships to study in China.
The ACC at the time told the press that the investigation into the matter was halted, partly because the Chinese embassy in Namibia refused to divulge information on the scheme.

Failure to successfully investigate the matter left many questioning the need for and efficacy of the ACC.
The view is also widespread that the ACC is there only to punish low-ranking officials, while those in
positions of power go scot-free.

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