MPs grill officials over fishermen deal

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MPs grill officials over fishermen deal

Eveline de Klerk

Members of parliament have told fisheries and labour ministry officials they have failed to take proper action against a fishing joint venture for who the two ministries signed an agreement with for the employment of 645 fishermen.

Elma Dienda, who is part of the parliamentary select committee assigned to undertake a fact-finding mission following the mass resignation of the ‘Okapare’ fishermen, consulted with officials of the two ministries along with Tjekero Tweya, Edson Isaaks and Gotthard Kasuto on Monday in Windhoek.

The four parliamentarians are expected to compile a detailed report on the burning issue that will be presented to parliament for further recommendation within the coming weeks. Expressing her disappointment with the agreement, Dienda said the fishermen were not even part of the agreement signed on their behalf.

According to the Popular Democratic Movement MP, the companies clearly contravened the agreement that was signed to employ the fishermen on the condition that quotas will be made available to them.

“The contract clearly states for employment… to work and not to sit at home for two years. The agreement also makes reference to progress reports and benefits for the fishermen. I have read the contract. It does not speak about an allowance but of actual jobs,” Dienda said during the meeting.

She expressed disappointment that no action was taken while the companies were in clear violation of the agreement. According to Dienda, the companies, during their consultative meeting, made it clear that their own workers are top priority and only when someone is sick or cannot work will they call on the fishermen to work.

“However, the agreement does not state this. It talks about the employment of the fishermen. They contravened the agreement in so many ways. They are the ones who did not stick to their agreement. This is the situation that we are dealing with. I am very disappointed with you,” Dienda said.

Tweya, on his part, said that the ministries also failed to find a lasting solution to the issue of the former seamen, hence the National Assembly stepped in to help resolve the matter.

“Our main aim is to consult and hear directly from the parties involved so that we can make recommendations that will be beneficial for all. We do not want this issue to escalate. We want to maintain peace,” Tweya said.

Meanwhile, the two ministries and the companies have agreed to put back the fishermen on the payroll until the end of the fishing season. This was done after the workers agreed to retract their resignations in writing. The labour union also agreed to withdraw the labour case that it had registered with the labour commissioner.

Chairperson of the joint venture, Robert Shimooshili last week, during their meeting, told the committee the fishing industry does not have the capacity to create 645 active jobs in a short period for the fishermen.

In fact, he indicated that climate change, shrinking fish stocks as well as the inability to catch, coupled with other challenges, further hamper employment creation and lean more towards job losses.