SWAKOPMUND - Some fishing rights applicants and industry players are concerned the process of evaluating over 5 000 applications may be compromised by the FishRot scandal, which has implicated two former cabinet ministers and their close associates.
News broke this week that an Icelandic fishing company, Samherji, secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018.
According to Wikileaks, former cabinet ministers Bernhard Esau (fisheries) and Sacky Shanghala (justice), Investec Asset Management Namibia CEO James Hatuikulipi and Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, who is also a son-in-law of Esau, are all implicated in the kickback scheme, which this week resulted in the resignations of the two ministers.
Last month Esau told New Era that a committee set up to evaluate over 5 000 fishing rights applications had completed 80 percent of its work. Last year the ministry of fisheries announced that a total of 5 190 fishing rights applications were received by 31 August 2018 for the 90 to 120 rights available. This presented a massive increase from previous applications, which ranged in the region of 500 to 1 500.
However, some commentators are now worried about the credibility of the process in the light of the massive kickback scandal, which has rocked the country.
A unionist based in the Erongo region, Fillipus George Ampweya, said the scandal cast doubts on the fishing rights allocation process, hence a proper investigation must take place.
“Clearly these latest developments have rendered this entire process undependable and clearly public perception of the transparency of the process remains under enormous question. Thus, regardless of who might benefit or not, there will still be much scepticism,” he said yesterday.
According to him, government must declare the ongoing process null and void. “Notwithstanding the financial implications on the part of the applicants, but unfortunately these are the punches we should be willing to take in the interest of ascertaining a transparent and uncompromised process. If those vested with the powers to protect the country, its resources and its people would rather advocate for self-enrichment, clearly this is bound to happen. Job losses were unnecessary and could have been avoided at all costs,” he said.
Community activist Knowledge Ipinge said the scandal confirmed that the current system of allocating quotas is deceptive at various levels and is of concern. “Thus an independent forensic company should be appointed to investigate the truthfulness of information submitted by all applicants of the fishing rights before issuing,” he said.
Going forward, he said, a precautionary approach to all activities related to rights allocation must be applied starting with suspending all individuals appointed to oversee the process.
“It should be a chief priority for government to initiate a proper investigation into the matter. Thousands of jobs were lost, jobs that could’ve been solved by horse mackerel quotas that have been offered to foreigners,” Ipinge said.
Unionist Paulus Hango also weighed in on the matter, saying the former minister had allowed Namibians to be part of the fishing industry, which was previously dominated by foreigners.
“Money has been leaving the country before Esau. Regardless of the allegations against him we cannot hide away from the fact that he changed some of the wrongs in the fishing sector. For instance, this is the first time that thousands of Namibians can directly take part in the fishing rights application process and we should not forget that,” Hango said.
United Democratic Front (UDF) of Namibia councillor Gibson Goseb was of the opinion that the law should take its course.
“However, we live in a society where the rules of law are not spread equally across all citizens. We treat others with soft gloves and others without gloves. The law is robust towards the have-nots. We would want to see the law run across all spheres and applicable to all regardless of your social position or political affiliation. Protection of the elite should come to an end,” he said.
Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations Matti Amukwa when approached for comment, said the association does not condone any sort of corruption and supports government’s stand against it.
“We respect the minister’s decision to step aside so he can focus on adequately addressing the allegations made. The new rights application is an official process that our government must decide upon. It would not be adequate for us to comment on it at this stage,” he said.
Eveline de Klerk
2019-11-15 08:38:49 7 months ago