n Roland Routh
WINDHOEK – Lawyer Dirk Conradie is still fighting tooth and nail to have the evidence against him and his long-time friend Sara Damases thrown out in the corruption trial underway in the Windhoek High Court.
His South African-based advocate, Vas Soni SC, yesterday told Acting Judge Thomas Masuku that the recording the State wishes to introduce as evidence will infringe on several of his client’s constitutional rights.
Mainly, Soni said, it will infringe on his client’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law as guaranteed under Article 12 of the Namibian Constitution. He further said that Conradie’s right not to incriminate himself is also in danger, as well as his right to privacy.
According to Soni, Conradie’s right not to be subjected to degrading treatment was also violated when Mark Bongers, of advertising agency DV8 Saatchi & Saatchi, surreptitiously made a recording during a meeting with Conradie and Damases.
Conradie was allegedly recorded while making demands for DV8 to avail shares to Damases in return for the renewal of a multi-million tender from MTC, for which Conradia was board chairperson.
He told the court that the defence team had agreed for the sake of progress in the case that the recording may be submitted into evidence, albeit on a provisional basis, and they reserve the right to challenge it at an opportune time.
In the recording that was then played Conradie can be heard asking Bongers and his (Bongers’) business and life partner Kim Field whether they have a BEE partner and when Bongers answers in the negative, says he can provide them with one.
Conradie can also be heard saying that DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi, the company of Bongers and Field, is not the favourite to win the MTC advertising contract worth an estimated N$60 million at the time, but he could change it in their favour if they brought Damases on board as BEE partner.
The meeting apparently took place at the offices of Conradie & Damaseb on June 12, 2012 after Damases approached Bongers at his office with a “message from the MTC chairman”. According to Bongers, he agreed to the meeting out of curiosity and because Damases introduced herself as the wife of Judge President Petrus Damaseb and an independent consultant for MTC.
Conradie allegedly told Bongers during the meeting that he will use his position as chair of the MTC board to ensure that the advertising agency, owned by Bongers and Field, gets the telecommunication giant’s N$60 million advertising tender in turn for them taking Damases on board as a BEE equity in their company.
They were arrested in June 2012 after Bongers and Field allegedly availed a tape recording of Conradie, soliciting a bribe from them, to the ACC.
The recording was allegedly made by Bongers in a meeting held at the Conradie & Damaseb law firm’s offices on June 12, 2012.
According to Bongers he was “flabbergasted” by the tone of the meeting and that after the meeting Field said: ‘Wow, that was straight-up’ apparently using a New Zealand phrase that means ‘it’s clear’. Asked what he meant by that he said that to his understanding they were offered the contract on condition they take Damases on as a BEE partner.
He further told the court that after discussing the matter he and Field decided to consult their lawyer, Franscois Erasmus, on what they should do as they were out of their depth, and he recommended they should speak to a senior counsel. They then had a meeting with Advocate Raymond Heathcote who told them they could either hand the recording over to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) or could keep quiet and they decided to contact the ACC.
On a question by State Advocate Ed Marondedze whether the ACC knew beforehand of the recording, or the meeting with Conradie and Damases, he answered with an emphatic no, and said he decided to record the meeting to protect himself and his company, as the MTC tender policy clearly prohibited contact between tenderers and members of the company other than specially assigned staff.
He will continue with his testimony today. Conradie and Damases are free on bail.