The United States said Tuesday it would ban the entry of two former government ministers from Namibia whose alleged acceptance of bribes caused a political uproar in 2019.
The State Department said that former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala — as well as their immediate family members — would not be allowed into the United States.
“The United States continues to stand with all Namibians in support of democracy and the rule of law, and against those who would undermine these principles for personal gain,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The two ministers resigned and were arrested in 2019 on allegations that they accepted $10 million in bribes from one of Iceland’s biggest fishing firms, Samherji, in return for awarding quotas on horse mackerel from the sparsely populated southwest African nation.
The scandal, triggered by the publication of documents by WikiLeaks, came shortly before elections in which President Hage Geingob won another term but with a sharply reduced majority.
President Joe Biden earlier this month ordered a review on how better to fight corruption globally, calling the issue a national security interest of the United States as graft “rots democracy from the inside” and boosts authoritarians.
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Tuesday said reparations offered by Germany for mass killings in its then colony at the start of the twentieth century were “not acceptable” and needed to be “revised”.
German occupiers in Namibia killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century.
In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by Germany as well as development aid.
Geingob on Tuesday was briefed by his government’s special envoy Zed Ngavirue on the status of negotiations.
The briefing took place ahead of a final round of talks for which a date has yet to be set.
“The current offer for reparations made by the German government remains an outstanding issue and is not acceptable to the Namibian government,” Geingob said in a statement after the briefing, adding that Ngavirue had been asked to “continue with negotiations for a revised offer”.
No details were provided on the offer.
The president also noted that Germany had declined to accept the term “reparations”, as that word was also avoided during the country’s negotiations with Israel after the Holocaust.
Ngavirue rejected Germany’s reference to reparations as “healing the wounds” and said the terminology would be subject to further debate, according to the statement.
Berlin was not immediately available for comment on the claims.
Germany has acknowledged that atrocities occurred at the hands of its colonial authorities and some officials have even recognised it as a genocide.
But the country has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid to the Namibian government.
Namibia was called German South West Africa during Germany’s 1884-1915 rule, and then passed under South African rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.
Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.
In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children.
German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived.
The German government has so far refused to apologise for the killings.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ban the purchase of new cars for the Presidency and ministers.
It made the appeal in an open letter addressed to the President dated May 16 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare.
The group asked President Buhari to use his leadership position to follow the ‘Namibia example’ by urgently issuing an executive order to prohibit the purchase of new cars till the end of his administration.
According to it, the savings from the ban should be used to support students of tertiary institutions across the country to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on them and their parents.
It suggested that the funds should also be used to improve access to healthcare for all Nigerians, and the National Assembly and governors should be encouraged to also ban the purchase of new cars and to use the savings to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.
SERAP asked high-ranking public officials and politicians to demonstrate the constitutional oaths of absolute loyalty to the public interest and the common good, especially in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It added that the expenditure of public funds required the highest degree of public trust, stressing that every public official has a duty to protect and preserve the public interest in public spending.
Read the letter to the President below:
16 May 2020
Muhammadu Buhari GCFR
President, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Presidential Villa
Re: Request to follow the ‘Namibia example’ by urgently issuing executive order to ban the buying of new cars by the presidency, and ministers for the remainder of the tenure of your administration
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is writing to request you to use your leadership position to urgently issue an executive order to ban the purchase of new cars by the presidency, and all ministers for the remainder of the tenure of your administration, that is, until May 2023.
SERAP also urges you to use the savings from this ban to support students of tertiary institutions across the country in order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on them and their parents and to improve access to healthcare for all Nigerians.
SERAP urges you to encourage the National Assembly and the 36 state governors to also ban the buying of new cars and to use the savings to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.
SERAP also urges you to consider banning spending on generators in the presidency and cutting spending on items like furniture and fittings, refreshments, catering services, and purchase of kitchen and household equipment.
SERAP is a non-profit, nonpartisan, legal, and advocacy organization devoted to promoting transparency, accountability, and respect for socio-economic rights in Nigeria.
SERAP received the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award in 2014 and was nominated for the UN Civil Society Award and Ford Foundation’s Jubilee Transparency Award.
SERAP serves as one of two Sub-Saharan African civil society representatives on the governing Committee of the UNCAC Coalition, a global anti-corruption network of over 380 civil society organizations (CSOs) in over 100 countries.
According to reports, Namibia’s president Hage Geingobon on Thursday imposed a five-year ban on buying new cars for top politicians and government officials from buying new cars in order to redirect the funds to fight COVID-19 in his country.
This presidential directive is expected to save the country some 200 million Namibian dollars (US$10.7 million), which would then be directed to “to urgent priorities, specifically at a time when the country is dealing with the health and economic implications of COVID-19”.
Copying the example of Namibia will also show that public funds will be spent for the benefit of the people, and not as a prerogative for the advantage of the government or the benefit of public officials.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the urgent need for high-ranking public officials and politicians to demonstrate the constitutional oaths of absolute loyalty to the public interest and the common good.
The constitutional oaths of office by public officials include the responsibility to prioritise the well-being of Nigerians.
Imposing a ban on new cars by the presidency, ministers and encouraging the leadership of the National Assembly and the 36 state governors to do the same would serve the public interest, contribute to cutting the cost of governance.
As the trustees of Nigerians’ public funds, your government, the National Assembly and governors are accountable to the public for the management of those public funds.
The expenditure of public funds requires the highest degree of public trust. It is the constitutional duty of every public official to protect and preserve the public interest in public spending.
As the government prepares to finalise the proposed amendment to the 2020 budget, we urge you to immediately impose a ban on the purchase of new cars by the Presidency and to encourage the National Assembly and the 36 state governors to do the same, and to ensure that public funds are used for the benefit of the public.
SERAP remains concerned that several state governments are failing to pay workers and that the Federal Government is failing to pay pensioners’ entitlements.
This is a clear violation of the right to work recognized under article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.
The right to work is essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.
We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure and promote the public interest and the common good in public spending.
Please accept the expression of our highest consideration. Thanking you in advance for your urgent attention to the matter.
Namibia’s top court on Wednesday dismissed an opposition bid to overturn last year’s general election over the use of paperless electronic voting machines.
Opposition parties in December petitioned the Supreme Court to annul the results and order fresh polls, claiming the use of electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper record was unconstitutional.
President Hage Geingob, 78, secured a second five-year term in the November poll with a hugely diminished majority of 56 percent compared to 87 percent in the previous polls in 2014.
The ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), which has been in power since Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990, also retained its majority in parliament.
“We decline to set aside the election and order a rerun,” Chief Justice Peter Shivute ruled.
“Applicants have not shown that the absence of a verifiable paper trail has adversely affected their fundamental right to vote.”
While upholding the outcome of the 2019 election, the judges nonetheless ruled in favour of paper trails for future ballots.
The lack of a verifiable paper record, they said, was “unconstitutional”.
Runner-up candidate Panduleni Itula, who led the court challenge, welcomed the ruling, even though the election result was confirmed.
He told AFP he was satisfied that paper audit trails would feature in the next poll.
“It is not the end of me or the end of the thought process,” Itula added.
Namibia was the first country in Africa to introduce electronic voting machines in 2014.
Itula had unsuccessfully petitioned against the machines before the elections, claiming the absence of paper records raised the risk of fraud.
The 62-year-old dentist racked up 30 percent of the vote as Namibia’s first independent candidate.
Popular Democratic Movement candidate McHenry Venaani came third with 5.3 percent.
“I am politically vindicated,” Venaani told AFP after the ruling.
“What they have done is going to help our democracy,” he said. “That is a victory in itself.”
Namibians will vote in a general election on Wednesday with the incumbent president facing discontent over the ailing economy despite the nation being one of the most mineral-rich in Africa.
An entrenched recession in the southwest African nation has overshadowed President Hage Geingob’s first term in office.
As Geingob, whose South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) has ruled Namibia since independence from South Africa in 1990, seeks re-election, his popularity has waned among frustrated youth who have borne the brunt of the downturn.
The disaffection has fuelled support for ex-dentist Panduleni Itula, 62, a SWAPO member standing as an independent candidate.
Analysts say that Itula could attract votes from both the opposition and SWAPO loyalists displeased with 78-year-old Geingob.
“The Namibian people are living in dire straits,” tweeted Itula last week.
‘Don’t Need Friends’
Observers say the president is still likely to secure a second five-year mandate, but his score is predicted to drop from the 87 percent he garnered in 2014.
His runner-up McHenry Venaani of the opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), had won less than five percent of the votes cast.
SWAPO has enjoyed a two-thirds parliamentary majority since 1994.
“We are now in the second phase of the struggle, that of economic emancipation, that of provision of basic necessities,” Geingob told supporters at SWAPO’s final rally in the capital Windhoek on Saturday, speaking at a stadium that was less than half full.
Around 2,500 people clad in green, red and blue party colours joined in singing liberation struggle songs.
Even fewer attended Venaani’s final rally on Sunday.
His PDM party is haunted by the legacy of its affiliation with apartheid South Africa before independence, which continues to deter voters. The rest of Namibia’s opposition is ethnically divided.
“You have no meaningful alternative to SWAPO,” analyst Henning Melber told AFP.
“With a weak opposition like that you don’t need friends,” he added.
Tough First Term
And Geingob has made very few, with the economy slumping in his first term.
Despite World Bank predictions of recovery this year, growth remained negative for the first two quarters of 2019.
“People are not getting jobs,” said 18-year-old high school graduate Ndeshihafea Nghipandulwa, hawking eyewear on the side of the road.
“We want a new president so that we can see change.”
Namibia’s economic slide was triggered by a combination of low commodity prices and one of the worst droughts in history.
Public debt ballooned as the cash-strapped government sought international support.
But Geingob has continued to pump money into his administration and hired a disproportionate number of civil servants.
“You have six or seven ministries doing the same thing,” complained another opposition candidate, Esther Muinjangue, accusing SWAPO of creating “jobs for its comrades”.
‘Disappointed’ Freedom Fighters
“I fought for the country, but today I am very disappointed,” said 77-year-old SWAPO war veteran Naftali Ngiyalwa, who sells flip-flops on Windhoek’s Independence Avenue.
“We were not fighting to be well off, but just to be okay and not homeless,” he told AFP, while adding that he would still support Geingob.
Namibia is one of Africa’s richest countries in terms of resources. Vast uranium and diamond reserves sit along a 1,500 kilometre (930-mile) coastline, which is home to a vibrant fishing industry.
Nearly a million tourists visit each year, drawn to its wildlife and desert landscapes.
That wealth, however, does not trickle down to many.
Namibia is the world’s second most unequal country after South Africa, according to the World Bank.
Around 40 percent of urban dwellers lived in shacks in 2016, according to the government.
Geingob’s credibility took another hit this month after WikiLeaks published evidence of government officials taking bribes from an Icelandic fishing company and two ministers resigned.
The president claims the timing of the leaks was calculated to damage his campaign.
Meanwhile, the opposition is concerned over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), claiming the absence of paper records raises prospects of fraud.
The electoral tribunal on Monday threw out an application by opposition leader Itula seeking to bar the use of EVMs.
Reports that a number of EVMs went missing after they were used for a local election in 2017 have stoked further suspicion over the poll’s credibility.
But the court said there was no evidence that the missing machines “have any relevant bearing” on Wednesday’s elections.
Namibia was the first African country to use EVMs in 2014.
With a population of 2.45 million, around 1.4 million Namibians are registered to vote.
Eleven candidates and 15 parties are contesting the presidential and parliamentary polls.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea said his team were “disappointed” with their Rugby World Cup start after they were forced to come from behind in an error-strewn 47-22 win over lowly Namibia on Sunday.
Talisman captain Sergio Parisse became only the third man to play in five Rugby World Cups but even he admitted it was “not maybe a really nice match to see” as wind and at times torrential rain lashed the Hanazono Stadium.
Often Six Nations whipping boys, Italy are targeting their October 4 clash against South Africa as a possible route to reaching the knock-out stages for the first time but this patchy display will not leave the Springboks unduly worried.
“We’ll have to move on from that pretty quickly. It wasn’t very pretty. There’s too many errors in it,” said O’Shea.
“It was difficult conditions at times in the second half, which doesn’t excuse it. But we’ll be disappointed with the way we played… that’s not the true version of us,” said the Irishman after the bonus-point win.
Namibia’s defence coach had promised to treat fans to an impromptu haka if his minnows pulled off a shock and it was the unfancied Welwitschias who started the brightest.
The underdogs led with only five minutes on the clock, seizing on an overthrown line-out to produce a flowing move down the right flank finished off acrobatically by scrum-half Damian Stevens.
Italy hit back within minutes, a Parisse-inspired push-over in the scrum resulting in a penalty try as Namibia collapsed on their line.
The Italians squandered several chances in a nervy and mistake-ridden first half but eventually took the lead in the 26th minute as they unpicked the Namibian defence for fly-half Tommaso Allan to touch down under the posts.
The champagne moment of the match came on the stroke of half-time as Federico Ruzza’s no-look pass let in Tito Tebaldi for a try, well converted to give the favourites a 21-7 lead at the break.
‘Never Gave Up’
With the match being played on the fringes of a typhoon, rain hammered down in the early part of the second half and Italy extended their advantage almost immediately through an Edoardo Padovani try after a clever kick behind Namibian lines.
Italy never looked in danger of losing the match, scoring three further tries via Carlo Canna, Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi, but the spirited Namibians refused to lie down and a touch-down from winger JC Greyling was greeted with roars from the capacity crowd.
A mazy Chad Plato try under the posts gave the Namibians a final consolation score just before time.
The 36-year-old Parisse’s record-equalling fifth World Cup put him alongside fellow countryman Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan legend Brian Lima, and his 141st cap also drew him level with Irish star Brian O’Driscoll in second place on the all-time list.
“The important thing today was to win and take the five points,” Parisse said.
“Big congratulations to Namibia as well because they never gave up. They kept playing to the end.”
A German museum said Friday it would return to Namibia a 15th-century navigation landmark erected by Portuguese explorers, as part of Berlin’s efforts to face up to its colonial past.
“The restitution of the Stone Cross of Cape Cross is a clear signal that we are committed to coming to terms with our colonial past,” said Culture Minister Monika Gruetters.
“For too many decades, the colonial time has been a blind spot in our remembrance culture.”
Placed in 1486 on the western coast of what is today Namibia, the Stone Cross was once considered to be such an important navigation marker that it featured on old world maps.
In the 1890s, it was removed from its spot on Cape Cross and brought to Europe by the region’s then German colonial masters.
Since 2006, it has been part of a permanent exhibition of the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
But in June 2017, Namibia demanded the restitution of the cross, which stands 3.5 metres (11 feet) high and weighs 1.1 tonnes.
The return of the cross marks a concrete step to make good on Germany’s pledge to accelerate the return of artefacts and human remains from former African colonies.
For Andreas Guibeb, Namibia‘s ambassador to Germany, the restitution is “important as a step for us to reconcile with our colonial past and the trail of humiliation and systematic injustice that it left behind.”
“Only the confrontation and acceptance of that painful past will liberate us to consciously and confidently confront the future.”
‘Historical injustice’ –
In a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the president of the museum’s foundation, Raphael Gross, noted that the Cross “is one of the very few objects that documents the occupation of the country by the Portuguese”.
Berlin ruled what was then called South West Africa as a colony from 1884 to 1915.
Germany has on several occasions repatriated human remains to Namibia, where it slaughtered tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.
The German government announced in 2016 that it planned to issue an official apology for the atrocities committed by German imperial troops.
But it has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid given to the Namibian government.
Guibeb said “huge progress” had been made in recent years on finding a common language to describe the mass killings, even if he acknowledged that it would take more time than the public would wish.
Meanwhile, other African countries were also watching the latest restitution carefully.
For Cameroon’s Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III, who had travelled to Berlin especially to witness Friday’s announcement, “what has happened here is fundamental.”
“This is the direction we have been seeking for the last 30 years, now we have to see how far we will go,” he said, adding that he has been pressing a German museum for the return of a family object for years.
Beyond what is now modern-day Namibia, the German empire also held the colonies of Togoland, now Togo, Kamerun (Cameroon) and Tanganyika (Tanzania), as well as some Pacific islands, until World War I.
Nigeria has secured a dramatic, first ever spot in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2020, after beating Sierra Leone by two wickets, on the final day of the Africa qualifying tournament in Namibia.
Set 139 to win, Nigeria endured a nervy chase, slipping to 87 for six at one point, before man of the match Peter Aho scored a priceless 21 not out to see them home. The entire squad rushed onto the field in jubilation, as they confirmed their seat at their first ever global tournament.
Aho had also taken two wickets earlier, when Sierra Leone posted 138 all out at Affies Park in Windhoek. On the adjacent field, Namibia had posted a massive victory over Kenya, so Nigeria simply had to win.
Sierra Leone provided them with plenty of challenges, as Haroun Kamara’s 58 from 60 balls propelled his side to a testing target. John Bangura chipped in with hearty 21, and as Sierra Leone refused to go quietly.
Osman Sankoh’s late 24 also lifted the tempo, and the previously unheralded Abdulrahman Jimoh took two quick wickets for Nigeria the end, to stop the target getting any bigger.
In response, Nigeria endured a tumultuous time of it, not aided by a gathering storm. Isaac Danladi’s responsible 25 were crucial, while Miracle Ikaige also lent a hand with a vital 22. But the wickets kept on tumbling, and the pressure kept on mounting.
Aho’s nerveless intervention, mixed with occasional aggression, whittled down the target, and Nigeria were helped over the line by the cheering Ugandan squad. Namibia, on the other hand, were understandably cheering on Sierra Leone, having completed a 198-run drubbing of Kenya.
Skipper Divan la Cock was again in the runs, with 88 from 102 balls, and Jan-Izak de Villiers added a steady 55, as Namibia piled on the runs. Ramon Wilmot had set them on their way with a blitzkrieg 46 from just 31 balls, clubbing three sixes in the process.
The hosts eventually ended on 294 for five, as they finished the tournament like a freight train. They rolled Kenya over for 96, with Mauritius Ngupita yet again in the wickets. His three for 15 supplemented De Villiers’ burst upfront, as Namibia rushed through the East Africans.
In the final game of the tournament, Uganda’s Zephania Arinaitwe clattered a 40-ball 102, to blaze his side to an eight-wicket victory. He made light work of a target, after Tanzania had been bowled out for 144.
Ashish Shah scored 40 and Aahil Jasani 28, as Tanzania tried to mount a challenging total. Skipper Frank Akankwasa and Juma Miyagi took three wickets apiece, as Uganda finished off their tournament in some style.
The stage was then set for Arinaitwe to hammer nine sixes and six fours in his astonishing innings. He rushed to the total of 145 in just 12.2 overs, to demolish Tanzania, and finish off a dramatic week in Windhoek with quite a flourish.
Scores in brief:
Nigeria v Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone 138 all out (H Kamara 58, O Sankoh 24, A Jimoh two for 2)
Nigeria 139 for eight (I Danladi 25, M Ikaige 22, P Aho 21 not out, O Sankoh three for 13)
Nigeria won by two wickets
Namibia v Kenya
Namibia 294 for five ( D la Cock 88, J De Villiers 55)
Kenya 96 all out (S Ghataora 28, M Ngupita three for 15, J De Villiers three for 24)
Namibia won by 198 runs
Tanzania v Uganda
Tanzania 144 all out (A Shah 40, A Jasani 28, J Miyagi three for 21, F Akankwasa three for 33)