• ELIASER NDEYANALE
FORMER National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) director Bennett Kangumu has said the Fishcor board of directors did not approve the payment of N$17,5 million that ended up in the pockets of politically connected individuals.
He said this in an affidavit submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission two years ago and filed in the High Court in October last year.
In the affidavit, Kangumu also described how the Fishcor board was unaware of the appointment of James Hatuikulipi as chairperson. Hatuikulipi was allegedly chosen by former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau to be appointed as Fishcor board chairperson. At the time, Hatuikulipi was the managing director of Investec Asset Management Namibia, which is now known as NinetyOne.
Kangumu said the board learnt about payments which Fishcor had made to the law firm Sisa Namandje & Co for the first time in the media.
The payments are linked to the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud and corruption case.
After the money had been paid to the law firm, around N$15 million was later paid to businessman Vaino Nghipondoka and Swapo’s Oshikoto regional coordinator, Armas Amukwiyu, in 2015.
“I can confirm that the payments were not discussed or authorised by the board and there is no board resolution to that effect, for those amounts of N$15 million and N$2,5 million,” Kangumu stated in his affidavit.
He added that the transactions did not reflect on Fishcor’s bank account. However, when the board enquired from former Fishcor finance manager Paulus Ngalangi why the transactions did not reflect on the state-owned fishing company’s account, Ngalangi allegedly said the payments were part of “governmental objectives” fishing quotas that were only reflected in the control accounts and not in Fishcor’s bank accounts.
According to Kangumu, Fishcor’s auditors had informed the board that they had discussed the payments to Sisa Namandje & Co with Hatuikulipi and former Fishcor chief executive officer Mike Nghipunya. “But that was never brought to the attention of the board,” Kangumu said.
Kangumu said the governmental objective quotas are managed and administered by Fishcor on behalf of the government.
“The process would be that the minister of fisheries and marine resources, Mr Bernhard Esau, would direct the chief executive officer of Fishcor to sell those governmental objective fishing quotas on behalf of the intended beneficiary. This would not be handled by the board,” Kangumu said.
He said in line with the government’s intended objectives of value addition in the fisheries sector, especially onshore processing of fish, Fishcor entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to set up and support an onshore fish processing facility. Fishcor then entered into a joint venture with African Selection Trust, called Seaflower Pelagic Processing, to develop an onshore horse mackerel factory at Walvis Bay.
Kangumu said Fishcor identified a piece of land previously owned by Etale Fishing and the land was bought for N$160 million. “The land was Fishcor’s contribution to the joint venture and African Selection Trust was providing the finances to build the factory and buy the vessels, while the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources guaranteed fishing quotas for a period of 15 years to support the project,” he said.
According to him, the project started operating in 2019.
Seaflower Pelagic Processing is 60% owned by African Selection Trust, which is owned by businessman Adriaan Louw, while Fishcor owns the remaining 40%.
“Apart from getting 40% of the profit, Fishcor would get 8% of the quota usage fees,” Kangumu added.
Kangumu also said when Esau appointed him as a board member in 2014, for a three-year period, Esau had appointed Hatuikulipi as board chairperson.
“At our first board meeting of Fishcor, we had not deliberated on the appointment of the board chairperson,” he stated. “At this time, I cannot say whether or how Mr James Hatuikulipi was introduced to the board, as the board chairperson.”