MOSTLY FALSE: President’s corruption-related claims at Cabinet opening are misleading

Photo courtesy: Namibian Presidency on Facebook

President Hage Geingob made various off-the-mark statements about corruption-related matters during his opening address at the first Cabinet meeting of 2020.

Towards the end of the speech, that was broadcast live on television and via social media on the morning of Tuesday, 4 February 2020, the president touched on recent high-profile corruption-related issues and cases, such as the Fishrot Files corruption scandal and Namibia’s latest ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International (TI).

The president mentioned that he went to an anti-corruption event in Rwanda at the invitation of Rwandan president Paul Kagame, but he didn’t mention what the event was or when it was. However, Namibia Fact Check has ascertained that president Geingob attended the ceremony of the 4th International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award, in Kigali, Rwanda, on 9 December 2019. Also present at the event was the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Here is a video of president Geingob speaking at the 4th International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award.

President Hage Geingob speaking at the 4th International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award in Kigali, Rwanda, on International Anti-Corruption Day 2019, on 9 December 2019.

President Geingob made three (3) specific claims during his Cabinet meeting opening statement:

Claim 1:

“After I explained and joked about Qatar, because Al Jazeera comes from there, and I said, the only thing I disagree with you, is you took time to air it during the elections campaign … during elections.”

This was with reference to a conversation president Geingob said he had with the Emir of Qatar at the Kigali, Rwanda, event during which he stated that Qatar-based Al Jazeera aired its Anatomy of a Bribe documentary, about the Fishrot corruption scandal, during the Namibian elections of 27 November 2019.

This is false. The Al Jazeera Fishrot documentary was broadcast on 1 December 2019, after the 27 November elections and after the results of the elections had officially been announced on the evening of 30 November 2019.

Claim 2:

“We got one step up … one step up. We are in the top ten good countries dealing with corruption, fighting against corruption.”

This is clearly a reference to the 2019 CPI.

This is mostly false. Namibia didn’t go one step up, but went one point down (from 53 in 2018 to 52 in 2019) and four places down (from 52 in 2018 to 56 in 2019). However, the president is correct that Namibia is in the top ten of African countries on the 2019 CPI, coming in at joint fifth with Mauritius out of 49 African countries ranked on the latest CPI.

Claim 3:

“One said Fishrot is not added yet. It is added.”

This was also with reference to a conversation at the Kigali, Rwanda, event during which the president alleged someone said that the Fishrot corruption scandal, which was exposed in mid-November 2019, did not influence Namibia’s ranking on the 2019 CPI.

This is mostly false. A country’s ranking is determined by an assessment of various data sources. The 2019 CPI document states on page 26:

“The CPI 2019 is calculated using 13 different data sources from 12 different institutions that capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years.”

Additionally, a country’s ranking is determined by assessing at least three (3) of the data sources.

While the 2019 CPI document does provide a brief overview of the Fishrot Files corruption scandal on page 24, it does not follow that the Fishrot scandal influenced Namibia’s ranking as most of the surveys and other data sources used by the CPI to determine country rankings were conducted and released well before the Fishrot Files became public in mid-November 2019.

The 13 different data sources used to calculate the CPI are the following:

In Namibia’s case, seven (7) of these sources were used to determine the country score and ranking. These sources are:

  • Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index 2020
  • Economist Intelligence Unit Country Risk Service 2019
  • Global Insight Country Risk Ratings 2018
  • The PRS Group International Country Risk Guide 2019
  • World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey 2019
  • World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Expert Survey 2019
  • Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) 2019

In the final assessment, based on the evidence available, Namibia Fact Check finds that president Geingob’s corruption-related claims made during the Cabinet opening speech of 4 February 2020 were mostly false.

UPDATED: To include seven sources used to determine the country score and ranking.

5th February 2020

Frederico Links

Frederico Links is the editor and lead researcher of Namibia Fact Check and a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)