Conradie corruption trial: ruling on special plea next year

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Windhoek

The ruling on the special plea lodged by Windhoek lawyer Dirk Conradie in the trial in which he faces charges of corruption will be delivered in February next year. Conradie is appearing with his long-time friend Sara Ngenohani Damases.

Acting Judge Thomas Masuku yesterday told the court after hearing extensive arguments from Conradie’s senior counsel Vas Soni from South Africa and State Advocate Ed Marondedze that he needed time to study the arguments and would endeavour to pronounce himself on the matter on February 12.

At the heart of the case is whether MTC is a public enterprise and whether Conradie in his capacity as a director is a public figure.
Senior counsel Soni argued that MTC was never proclaimed a state-owned enterprise (SOE) according to the Act that established Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings (NPTH), of which MTC is a subsidiary.

He said the Act that established NPTH only created Telecom Namibia and NamPost as SOEs.
Conradie is objecting to the second count in the indictment that alleges he used his position as a public officer to obtain gratification for himself or another person by allegedly influencing the award of a massive advertising tender.
Conradie allegedly told Mark Bongers that he would use his position as chair of the MTC Board to ensure advertising agency DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi, owned by Bongers and his wife Kim Field, got the telecommunication giant’s N$60 million advertising tender in return for them taking Damases on board as a black economic empowerment (BEE) shareholder in their company.

Conradie and Damases were arrested in June 2012 after Bongers and Field allegedly availed a tape recording to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Conradie soliciting a bribe from them.
The recording was allegedly made by Bongers in a meeting held at the Conradie & Damaseb law firm’s offices on June 12, 2012.

Conradie and Damases raised an objection to the charges against them saying the tape recording was made unlawfully as they did not give permission for Bongers and Field to tape their private conversation, saying that it is unconstitutional.

Yesterday’s proceedings concentrated on count 2 of the charges.
According to Conradie “it is nowhere in the indictment legitimately justified” that he was a public officer who misused a public office. He said that MTC is not a public body as defined in Section 31 of the Anti-Corruption Act, which defines a public body as either a ministry, office or agency of government; any regional council or local authority council or any corporation, board, council, institution or other body exercising any power in terms of the constitution or performing a public function in terms of any law.

He further denies he is a public officer as he does not serve on any public body.
He further said that even though he was appointed by government this does not justify the conclusion he is a public officer. According to Conradie the mere allegation that he is a public officer does not make him a public officer and as such he cannot be charged under Section 43(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, and submitted that the charge must be quashed.

State Advocate Marondedze on the other hand argued that since government has a substantial stake in MTC it automatically qualifies as a SOE.
He further argued that the government appointed Conradie as a director of the company, which makes him liable to the ACC.

He said the court could not quash any of the charges until it had a chance to hear evidence on the status of the entity (MTC) from the very people who appointed Conradie as a director.
According to Marondedze, Conradie and Damases must plead to the charges against them to allow the case to continue. Conradie also questions the Namibian High Court’s jurisdiction to try him on the charge that he failed to disclose an interest in a contract of significance entered into by the company.

Damases indicated that she would apply for the charges against her to be quashed for lack of proper disclosure of the alleged offences.

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