‘That time my life was so good’

Thomas Haimbula

Thomas Haimbala’s son finished Grade 11 at the end of 2023, but he can’t help his son improve his grades in order to go further, because he has no money.

Haimbala is a former fisherman at Namsov Fishing Enterprises until the company suddenly let him go in December 2017, because, as he puts it: “Fishrot things were happening when former [fisheries] minister [Bernhard Esau] removed our quotas.”

Haimbala says he started at Namsov Fishing Enterprises in the late 2000s and was mostly stationed on the company’s MFV Sunfish trawler, but also spent time over the years on the MFV Namibian Star.

Haimbala was mostly a holdman (packing fish in the hold for freezing), but also spent time as a deckhand and factory hand on the vessels he worked on.

His name appears on a list published as a public notice by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in early 2020 “of former employees of Namsov who were retrenched due to non-availability of quotas”.

Haimbala, from the tiny rural settlement of Engela in the Ohangwena region, says he came to Walvis Bay over 15 years ago to, as he puts it in his broken English, “search for bread [to put] on the table for my family” in the fishing sector.

The family he was talking about were his own children, his mother and eight siblings on “my father’s side” he says, and an unmarried aunt (his mother’s sister) and her seven children.

They were all reliant on him for everything from their monthly basic food items to clothes and school fees.

He also financially helped out other members of his extended family on occasion over the years, he says.

Haimbala says of this time, which lasted almost 10 years, he was a Namsov fisherman: “That time my life was so good.”

Part of what made life good for him was “that I can share what I have”.

Haimbala says he was on a basic monthly salary of almost N$7 000, but on average earned between N$11 000 and N$17 000 per month, because of what fishermen called “the kommissie” [commission].


The commission they received depended on the size of the catch – some months it was good and others not so good.

As Haimbala puts it: “The more you catch, you can get more money . . . if you catch less fish, you get less money.”

Because of the money he was earning, he was able to bring his three children to the coast to live with him in a rented flat at Kuisebmond and go to school at Walvis Bay.

Haimbala says he could even afford to bring a younger relative to come live with them to take care of his children when he was at sea.
When he lost his job he had to send them all back home to his mother’s homestead in 2018.

Apart from financially supporting his family, Haimbala had been buying bricks and other materials to build a house at his mother’s homestead at Engela since 2014 and also bought cattle to start his own herd.

Because he lost his job he hasn’t been able to finish the house and he lost his seven cattle in the drought of the late 2010s, because he could not afford to buy cattle feed.

After losing his job, Haimbala spent most of 2018 looking for work.

He couldn’t afford to feed himself at the time and relied on other fishermen who still had work to at least buy him “Top Score” (maize meal) while he was looking for work.


Eventually he had to move out of the flat he had been renting into “a ghetto” (shack) in the informal settlement of Twaloloka.
He says he was staying “illegally” and was not paying rent and that there was no water or electricity.

By late 2018, without finding work, Haimbala could no longer afford to stay at Walvis Bay and moved back to Ohangwena.

He returned to Walvis Bay in 2021 to sign up to a scheme negotiated between the Namibian government and fishing companies through which quotas are awarded to companies which then pay the former fishermen N$4 000 per month.

This is his only income, he says.

Haimbala is now renting “a house” with four other unemployed fishermen who are also receiving this monthly allowance.

Sometimes he has to go without food, he says.

He says he continues to go “door to door looking for a job”, but hasn’t found anything yet and that if he doesn’t find any work by mid-2024 he intends going back to the Ohangwena region, as he hasn’t seen his family in two years.

“I feel so bad,” he says about his life at the moment.

“I want to buy [things], but there’s no money. I want to get married, but there’s no money. I have somebody in the north (Ohangwena), but there is no money.

“My age is the age of having my own property,” he says.

“I’m concerned about the future, about tomorrow . . . if it will be worse or if it will be better.”

Regarding his son’s situation, Haimbala says he can only afford to pay N$500 per month (N$250 per subject) from the N$4 000 he gets to help his son improve his Grade 11 grades.

“I’m trying to keep him going to school,” he says. “But there is no money to go further.”

Haimbala has the following message for Samherji: “Come and negotiate with our government. Either you [Samherji] can come and give us a job, or give (pay) us something.”

This is a personal story of how the Fishrot scandal impacted fisherman Thomas Haimbala as published in the Institute for Public Policy Research report, titled ‘Human Rights Impacts of the Fishrot Scandal: We Are The Ones Who Suffered The Most’.

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