Fishrot Trial in Windhoek High Court Postponed Due to Absent Defence Lawyers

Windhoek – The much-anticipated Fishrot trial at the Windhoek High Court has been postponed to Friday following the absence of two defense lawyers. Acting Judge Moses Chinhengo made the decision to delay the proceedings on Wednesday.

According to Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA), The court was informed at the beginning of the session that defense lawyer Florian Beukes was on medical leave, while Mbanga Siyomunji was out of town. The trial involves several high-profile figures, including former Justice Minister Sakeus Shanghala, former Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhardt Esau, and other associates. They are accused of corruptly allocating fishing quotas in exchange for bribes to Icelandic fishing company Samherji.

The suspects, who have been in custody since November 2019, were expected to plead to the 42 charges against them after State Prosecutor Ed Marondedze finished reading the indictment. However, Shanghala declared on Tuesday that he, along with James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelula, would not plead as they lacked legal representation. The charges range from money laundering and fraud to racketeering.

Shanghala argued for an additional six months to prepare for the trial, pending funds to hire a lawyer of his choice. He is currently challenging a restraint order under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act by Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa, which froze his assets. The hearing for this application is pending.

Shanghala had also sought the government's assistance to cover his legal fees, asserting that his actions were part of his official duties. His request, along with Esau's similar application, was unsuccessful. He revealed that his former lawyer, Vas Soni, a prominent South African Senior Counsel, charged N.dollars 65,000 per day.

Shanghala emphasized that proceeding with the trial under these circumstances would undermine the justice process.