The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Fishing Rights Holders' Shotgun Marriages in Stormy Waters

THE minister of fisheries and marine resources, Bernard Esau, has warned that there is very little room for wriggling out of the joint ventures of new fishing rights holders that were put together by the ministry.

Esau said the rights holders, which were 'forced' into these arranged marriages, should work together and get their houses in order or risk sanctioning from the ministry.

The warning comes in the wake of infighting in one of the joint ventures put together by the ministry after it granted fishing rights to newcomers in the fishing industry.

According to a report in Namibian Sun, the Hefdy Group of Companies was accused by some of its shareholders of having entered into an unfavourable deal with a Chinese company.

It has also come to light that Hefdy, although not being registered in terms of the Companies Act, has been operating as a company and has sold the joint quota.

Esau recently announced that he had suspended the fishing rights of a newcomer which is not registered but has been utilising its fishing licence. A number of fishing rights holders have made allegations of unfair and disproportionate distribution of shares and dividends in joint ventures.

Esau said the companies must sort out their differences and pulling out is not an option.

"It's not allowed. We have given the fish quotas to the joint ventures in order to allow [as many] people as we can due to the lack of resources. In fact, it sets a bad example of not cooperating if one pulls out. They should understand and trust each other. The initiative was also made to enable people to work together," he added.

But those close to these joint ventures say that it is the individual shareholding companies in these marriages which are the licence holders, and not the joint venture.

The Hefdy Group of Companies consists of five individual companies that were allocated fishing rights in 2011, namely Human Capital Fishing, Egongelo Fishing Company, Fibresha Investment, Dorado Fishing Enterprises and Young Rangers Fishing.

Asked about the Hefdy situation, Esau could not shed light on issue since he is on leave.

About the registration of the company, he said he had told Hefdy officials to sort out their legal standing.

At the end of last year, Hefdy and another joint venture called Joka Two Fishing entered into an agreement with a Chinese company to establish a fishing company.

Some of the shareholders claim that the Chinese company paid Hefdy less for its fishing rights than was offered by another firm.

Hefdy sold its quota to China Fishery Group for N$24 million in February last year, and has entered into a long-term agreement with the same company at the end of last year.

Hedfy Group chairperson Betty Aluteni told The Namibian this week that the agreement to form a fishing company would continue as planned and wouldn't be affected by the squabbles.

She said it was only one shareholder, Human Capital Fishing, that had issues and that the other joint venture members were satisfied with the decisions made by the company.

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