Walvis Bay — Government will negotiate with the fishing industry in an effort to secure work for fishermen who lost their jobs during the 2015 illegal strike as well as those who were laid off after Namsov's quota was slashed. Acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana, who addressed the fishing industry during a heavily guarded meeting in Walvis Bay yesterday, made the announcement.
Namsov employed about 650 people. However, a massive reduction of its quota in 2014 saw the company laying off a number of workers. It also resulted in Bidvest, then majority owner, selling the business to the Tunacor Group.
But Kawana yesterday assured the fishing industry that government was addressing all issues, including corruption and the status of the jobless fishermen. He said a cabinet directive has resolved to put en end to the suffering of seamen and ensure they secure jobs within the sector.
According to Kawana, an assessment of all unemployed fishermen would be done before consulting stakeholders within the industry, including labour unions. "The idea is to negotiate and give those companies willing to employ them a slightly bigger quota in order to be able to create jobs," Kawana explained yesterday.
Asked why it took government so long to find a solution for the seamen's plight, Kawana responded that the issue was presented to the former minister. "Why action was not taken then, I don't know but now that it was brought to my attention we are working on it," he said.
Seamen in Lüderitz and Walvis Bay went on an illegal strike in 2015 to protest against unfair labour practices in the fishing industry, which also resulted in massive job losses.
Some players in the industry have also attributed the job losses to the international fishing kickback scandal implicating former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala, as well as business people. Both ministers were forced to resign over the scandal.
Esau, Shanghala and three of their co-accused allegedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.
According to media reports, Samherji's CEO and biggest shareholder Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson authorised the bribe payments.
Government has been blamed for doing nothing to rescue companies such as Etosha Fishing, United Fishing and Namsov, resulting in more than 4 000 job losses. The address by Kawana yesterday came just hours after Walvis Bay residents, including the disgruntled fishermen, marched against corruption in the fishing industry.
Hundreds of sympathisers joined the march in solidarity with the now jobless fishermen by walking through the streets of Kuisebmond and Narraville during the two-hour protest, which ended with addresses by various political party leaders, youth activists and Dr Panduleni Itula.