Fisheries minister accused of lack of transparency

PETITION … The fishermen who travelled to Windhoek from Walvis Bay to hand over a petition to the minister of fisheries and marine resources in Windhoek. Photo: Ester Mbathera

Former fishermen of ArcticNam, a subsidiary of the Icelandic fishing giant Samherji, along with 73 former workers of Namsov, have accused the minister of fisheries and marine resources of withholding information regarding the Government Employment Redress Programme (Gerp).

The fishermen, who travelled from Walvis Bay on Tuesday morning, handed a petition over to the acting executive director of fisheries and marine resources, Ueritjiua Kauaria, in Windhoek.

In the petition read by the fishermen’s shop steward, Weddy Shimukwete, they said they travelled to Windhoek due to a lack of communication from the ministry regarding fishing quota allocations to companies obligated to employ them.

“The other issue making things difficult for us is that we don’t even know how much quota was allocated for our employment, under what conditions, and what type of agreement the ministry has with Shore Recruit, and why our union officials were not informed,” she said.

Shimukwete said despite numerous attempts to raise the issue of their employment conditions with minister Derek Klazen they have received no response.

One of the issues highlighted is the absence of employment contracts, despite being paid N$4 000 per month by Shore Recruit through the Gerp.

“We have tried our best since 2021 to communicate with the ministry and the executive director through our union, but the minister and the executive director never respond to our letters. They try to avoid us at all costs,” she said.

Shimukwete told Kauaria the recruitment company informed them that the ministry owed the company N$13 million in lieu of fishing quotas.

According to the fishermen, this outstanding debt was the reason the company, which was granted the Gerp quota, could not employ them permanently.

Derek Klazen

Kauaria confirmed that the ministry yesterday paid Overberg Fishing, the company catching the quota, for over 1 100 tonnes of the 1 500 tonnes of hake in lieu of the N$13 million owed in quotas.

National Service and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu) president Paulus Hango this week confirmed that Klazen has not engaged the union in negotiations with fishing companies on Gerp.

He said the lack of involvement has exacerbated labour issues in the sector.

“We have a lot of problems in the fishing industry. Workers are being dismissed, and the minister gave assurance to companies that he is not the minister of labour and will not get involved. Workers have been dismissed at many companies,” Hango said.

Klazen yesterday explained that Gerp is a Cabinet-sanctioned programme aimed at employing a selected group of fishermen within approved groups, as per the Cabinet directive.

He said the agreement was entered into by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, along with designated companies to absorb these workers.
He dismissed claims of ignoring Nasawu, saying the union is not a party to the agreement between the government and the designated companies.

“Claims by the Nasawu leader that I as minister of fisheries do not engage them whenever my staff and I visit the coast are not only baseless, but not worth an old shoe.

“I have engaged Nasawu on numerous occasions in various boardrooms at the coast, where he represented the interest of his members.

“Also, during these numerous meetings, amicable solutions to issues affecting the fishermen he represents were taken and successfully executed.

“With regards to the ministry not responding to his letters, I would say this is a continuous baseless claim by Mr Hango, not only with respect to this ministry, but the government in general,” he said.

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