An ongoing investigation into corruption is looking into decisions by the government's Social Security Commission to iplace millions of dollars with a dodgy investment firm, Avid. The High Court inquiry requests the presence of a key witness, Lazarus Kandara, who lives in neighbouring South Africa. He voluntarily agrees to appear before the investigation, but during the course of his testimony, he incriminates himself, and, by the end of the afternoon session, is arrested by police on charges of theft and fraud.
In the process of the arrest, he is taken to several of his houses (as well as his lawyer's house) in order to collect bedding and other essentials for his time in the holding cells, as an awaiting trial prisoner. Returning late that night with police escort to the central police station, he dramatically removes a gun from his bedding material, and, in front of the door of the police station, commits suicide.
Several ethical issues arose:
1. A prominent daily newspaper, Die Republikein, prides itself on being first to the printers (and thus first on the streets the next morning). But in their rush to print they fail to cover the tragic suicide and their headline the next morning is "Kandara Sit" ('Kandara in Custody'). All their main competitors the next morning cover the latest news and lead with "Kandara Dead" as their headline. What judgements would you, as editor, make in such a case? The event occured at 22:35 in the evening, after presses were rolling for the next day's edition.
2. A local radio station records a series of vox pop interviews on the day of Kandara’s testimony – before his arrest and subsequent suicide. These are broadcast the next morning on the national radio station, including comments like "He is a criminal", "He must be punished for this corruption…" and others. Half way through, the producer/presenter stops the tape and tells his audience he has done this out of respect for the grieving family. Did the presenter/producer make the correct judgement? How else could you have handled the material?
3. The next available evening TV bulletin on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (the day after the suicide) leads with a ten-minute story on the return of President Hifekepunye Pohamba from the Harare agricultural show, where he is shown urging Namibians to follow the shining example of Zimbabwe in their "industrial progress." The Kandara story is the second item. The third report deals with the resignation of Deputy Minister of Public Works Paulus Kapia, also linked to the Avid scandal. The President is obviously an important figure, but what message does such a running order send to viewers? How do decisions of this kind become an issue of ethics? How could the situation have been handled differently?
– Robin Tyson, University of Namibia