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Namibia: ‘Being Intelligent and Young Can Be Stupid’

Summary

Former minister of justice Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana says her relationship with Fishrot-accused Sacky Shanghala broke down after she challenged for Swapo’s vice presidency in 2012.”I noticed [in 2012] him warming up to other groups of people, and that wa…

Former minister of justice Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana says her relationship with Fishrot-accused Sacky Shanghala broke down after she challenged for Swapo's vice presidency in 2012.

"I noticed [in 2012] him warming up to other groups of people, and that was when I was vying for a position at the Swapo congress," she told The Namibian recently.

"I learned later a campaign was established against me that I should not be supported, because I was going to 'starve' them," she said.

Iivula-Ithana also related her visit to Shanghala at the Windhoek Correctional Facility in November 2020.

"We spoke about how he was doing, and general matters. He told me he is reading and writing books," she said.

Shanghala, former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau, and former Investec Asset Management Namibia boss James Hatuikulipi are among those charged in connection with their roles in the Fishrot corruption scandal.

They have been behind bars awaiting trial since November 2019.

Shanghala tasted political power at a young age.

Fresh out of law school, he served as special assistant to then-prime minister Hage Geingob from 1999 to 2001.

He worked as special adviser to former minister of justice and attorney general Iivula-Ithana between 2002 and 2010.

"My relationship with Sacky started professionally while being the minister of justice. Having graduated and studied law, I thought I should give him the chance of becoming my personal assistant," Iivula-Ithana said.

BREAKDOWN

Their relationship went sour after Iivula-Ithana challenged Geingob for the position of Swapo vice president.

Shanghala was in Geingob's camp.

Geingob eventually won the race with 312 votes against Iivula-Ithana's 64.

"My relationship with Sacky never recovered - not like he was hostile to me, but there was a wedge. Normally we would talk about general things like politics, work and so on, but it was just not the same," she said.

The former Swapo stalwart said Shanghala's life has been tainted.

"When the Fishrot scandal broke, and he got arrested, I felt bad. Sacky was close to me. What angers me most is that the mind of a young man has been destroyed. Sacky is very intelligent," Iivula-Ithana said.

"... but perhaps being intelligent and young can also be a stupid thing. Young people don't realise the danger they are in most of the time, they always think they are cleverer," she said.

Their broken relationship did not stop Iivula-Ithana from visiting Shanghala last year.

"After a long time my humanity came back," she said.

Iivula-Ithana has now relocated to the north after she was removed from all leadership structures in Swapo and the government.

"During the November 2020 elections, I thought to myself why don't I go and see the young man. I arranged with the prison authorities and I asked what kind of items he needed," she said.

"I did not know how he would receive me, what his reaction would be . . . so I had to prepare myself psychologically. I got there, and he was delighted and happy to see me," she said.

CONTAMINATED JUSTICE

Iivula-Ithana was one of the most powerful women in Namibian politics when she was Swapo's chief administrator and in charge of the justice ministry.

But that power started fading when former president Hifikipunye Pohamba removed her from the ministry after her December 2012 congress defeat.

"Immediately [after the 2012 congress], I was shifted to the home affairs ministry, and one thing I noticed was that I got stripped of all things [committees, etc] that had to do with justice," Iivula-Ithana said.

One of the key ministries that played a part in enabling the Fishrot scandal was the justice ministry, which was under Albert Kawana at the time.

His ministry drafted the law that was later used by Shanghala and Esau to legitimise alleged corruption.

The change in law enabled the scheme that allegedly benefited Geingob's 2017 Swapo congress ambitions.

Iivula-Ithana said a team of people who replaced her team at the justice ministry "had no knowledge of the law".

"That's why the law could be changed easily without them noticing," she said.

Iivula-Ithana said it is unlikely that the president did not know the implication of the law.

"Even if he [Sacky] allegedly changed it, it cannot be done without the consent of the top leadership," she said.

"How can a law be changed without me knowing, when the very basis of what is being changed is being done for my (Geingob's) presidential campaign as a vying candidate? How will I not know?" she asked.

'WRONG CHOICES'

Political analyst Henning Melber yesterday in response to Iivula-Ithana's account said Shanghala had choices in life, but made the wrong ones.

"He was involved in so many shady and dubious deals and handling of matters (just remember the exorbitant amount of fees paid to a former schoolmate for basically no legal advice at all on the genocide matter), that I do not feel sorry for him," he said.

Melber added: "If he is a son of meme Pendukeni, then he is a lost son. The picture she presents may be correct, or somewhat painted in slightly different colours. Memory is not always reliable, especially when it involves oneself in a bit of a murky business."

He said it would be surprising if the Swapo president was indeed kept in the dark about changes made to the law that enabled the scheme.

Source: The Namibian