Venter (known as Bennie in Gobabis where he practises as a lawyer), was declared by the Supreme Court as dishonest and having acted in fraud of the law after he was at the forefront of “a simulated transaction” that both the High Court and the Supreme Court declared invalid.
Conradie, one of the first black lawyers in the country, used his racial complexion to justify why he clandestinely tried to foist a long-term friend of his onto an advertising company as its black economic empowerment partner if the firm was to win a N$60 million contract.
Conradie was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) who had him arraigned in court charging that he used his position as the Chairman of the cellphone company MTC to benefit himself and his friend Sarah Damases. Conradie proclaimed that what he did was in the name of empowering black people. “I have done this with a clear political motive to empower my people. If it’s wrong, and I don’t think I am [wrong], then I’m prepared to die on the cross for that,” he told journalists.
Frankly, this is nothing but hogwash and it is intellectual dishonesty to make the above statement when it is instead a matter of ethics. In a similar vein, Venter accused The Namibian of publishing half-truths and not having a clue about the law. The two lawyers have arrogated themselves the status of circumventing legal processes in order to achieve what they want.
Venter cooked up a donation of farmer Jan Harm Labuschagne’s land to South African citizen Waldemar Strauss when in fact Strauss bought the farms for N$8.7 million. He concealed the sale as a donation apparently to stop the government from having any claim to buy the farms as is stipulated in the land reform law. In the process, there must have been a lot of room to conceal or evade the tax payments that the sale would have generated.
The government has for long complained that whites are frustrating its land reform efforts to acquire land on the willing seller, willing buyer basis, in order to keep most of the commercially viable land in the hands of an elite group.
While the government might have used “whites” to conceal its incompetence, the likes of Venter are not helping to defuse what is an emotive issue and they are fuelling the racial divide with their dishonesty.
Conradie is similarly attempting to explain his shady deal as a benevolent act of empowering “my people” as per the expectation in the Namibian Constitution. For those who like to hide behind technicalities and legalities, let’s state it for the record that we do not say Conradie is guilty of corruption, extortion, bribery or whatever weight of charges may descend on him. The truth is that he has admitted to sending Damases to DV8 Saatchi and Saatchi, promising to give them the N$60 million MTC advertising contract in return for shareholding.
Any reasonable person can view as intellectual dishonesty the fact that Conradie is using black empowerment to explain his clandestine dealings. Even MTC was apparently unaware of his move.
Whatever Conradie did was not black economic empowerment for disempowered Namibians. Perhaps he would term it ‘Dirkonomics’ or ‘blackonomics’; just as Venter’s is perhaps ‘Venteronation’ as he tried to refer to his deal as a ‘donation”.
Such acts by people who should be societal role models give entire communities a bad name, just as BEE has largely taken on negative connotations.
And by not acting against Venter for years, the Law Society of Namibia and its structures give credence to the perceptions that it does not act decisively against lawyers and even less so against white lawyers when compared with black counterparts. The Venter case, which stems from a 2007 transaction, has been at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for about two years and no steps have been taken to date.
That kind of inaction fuels racial tension whereby black Namibians see whites as blocking them from taking part in national economic and other social activities. On the other hand whites confuse the entitlement mentality of some black freeloaders who demand shareholdings in white-owned companies with genuine empowerment where both parties would grow their wealth and the economy in turn.
Authorities (such as the Law Society, the police, ACC and other government agencies) must act decisively and without mercy to root out ‘Dirkonomics’ and ‘Venteronations’ practices if we are to have social, political and economic harmony. Communities must not accept shady deals which benefit a few select individuals to be concluded in their names.
Companies must be supported rather than victimised for standing up to shadiness. And, most importantly, communities all over Namibia must not accept that dubious deals benefitting a few select individuals are concluded in their names.