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Fishermen demand return to sea

2024-06-11  Pricilla Mukokobi

Fishermen demand return to sea

Hundreds of out-of-work fishermen, who are fed-up with the perceived lack of progress on their years-long fight to be given work, came to Windhoek yesterday for a peaceful demonstration and to demand their return to the sea. 

Expressing frustration after so many years of being paid between N$4 000 and N$5 000 without even doing any work, they emphasised their identity as fishermen, not factory workers.

The group is part of the fishermen who lost their jobs during the massive unprotected strike which took place in 2015, and were later re-employed through the Government Employment and Redress Programme (GERP), under which 550 fishermen were employed in the horse mackerel sub-sector, and 1 933 in the hake sub-sector.

A Cabinet decision in 2020 directed the fisheries and labour ministries to secure full-time employment for former Namsov employees, and those who lost their jobs during the illegal strike.

The fishermen have, however, been resigning and petitioning the two ministries over employment conditions, with many insisting on being assigned jobs on fishing vessels as they are fishermen. 

Through the programme launched in the 2020/2021 fiscal year, fishing companies which participate in the scheme pay fishermen a monthly stipend of N$4 000, even if they do not report for work. Fishing companies are allocated extra fishing quotas to employ the fishermen.

The group’s spokesperson, Godfried Kuhanga, highlighted the dire situation faced by the community. 

“For four years, N$4 000 to N$5 000 can’t sustain us. Everything has become expensive, and we want decent salaries. We are tired, and that is why we are coming to cry to our father of all nations to please hear us out and rescue us,” he stressed.

He added that they held several meetings with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Employment-Creation, but to no avail. 

“Nothing has changed, and the companies are the ones enjoying the benefits from the fishing quotas,” Kuhanga said.

He stated that since the company called Iyaloo Women’s Investment Group hired the fishermen, they never went to sea since the fishing quotas were allocated to this company last November. The matter was taken to those ministries, but nothing was done.

“We want to understand how a piece of paper, which is a fishing right, can take so long to be written and issued? We appreciate the efforts of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources to help with the issuing of the fishing rights, but we also know that the fishing quotas can be allocated to non-fishing rights holders as per the Marine Resources Amendment Act of 2015, signed by the late president (Hage Geingob),” he said.

He highlighted that some of them are the lowest-paid in the whole GERP. Moreover, they are working in an unconducive environment, where they even share protective clothing.

“We are tired of all this. We are forced to adhere to management terms, even though they are always at fault. We are ill-treated and manipulated, as we work under threats of being dismissed if we complain. There is too much unfair labour practices at these companies, and we also know there is corruption involved,” he continued.

The fishermen handed over their petition to Leevy-Lee Abrahams, the fisheries minister’s assistant, and Collen Kurana, senior security operations’ officer at the National Assembly. 

Abrahams said this is not the first petition the fisheries ministry has received from the fishermen.

“All your matters detailed in this petition are well-known by the ministry, and are similarly known by other ministries like the ministry of labour, and I promise to deliver this petition to the minister,” he noted.

He added that the ministry and the fishermen have held several engagements where they highlighted several other issues which are problematic, and some of the issues being highlighted as problematic have had solutions proposed by the minister to the fishermen.

Abrahams said to date, they have not made any submission to Cabinet regarding the company which will be receiving a fishing quota to employ the fishermen.  

“What is, however, clear is that in this country, it’s going to be extremely difficult for all ex-fishermen to find jobs at sea because the jobs have been occupied by other Namibians. So, all those jobs are gone, and it is not possible for anybody to guarantee that all of you are going to get the sea jobs,” he added.

Fisheries’ minister Derek Klazen and labour minister Utoni Nujoma held a meeting at the coast in late May, where they addressed concerns and complaints raised by fishermen.



2024-06-11  Pricilla Mukokobi

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