Not all fishing troubles linked to Fishrot

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Not all fishing troubles linked to Fishrot

WALVIS BAY – Not every fishy tale of industry troubles and job losses is hooked to the Fishrot saga, nor is the suicide of all fishermen linked to it.  

This is the view of fisheries minister Derek Klazen, who delivered his annual fishing industry address at Walvis Bay yesterday.

The minister said the Fishrot saga has been exploited to advance agendas unrelated to the core issue, and that some of these should be separated from the controversy.

The N$103 million Fishrot scandal implicated key figures, leading to the downfall of former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala, former fisheries minister Bernard Esau, former Investec Asset Management managing director James Hatuikulipi, Ricardo Gustavo, Esau’s son-in-law and James’s cousin Tamson Hatuikulipi, their cousin Pius Mwatelula, and former Fishcor chief executive officer Mike Nghipunya. 

The suspects have been in custody since November 2019, following the publication of the Fishrot Files by WikiLeaks. 

These files, comprising thousands of documents and email communications from employees of Samherji, one of Iceland’s largest fishing industry companies, revealed payments of hundreds of millions to high-ranking politicians and officials.

Fishrot also resulted in Namsov, which held the largest horse mackerel quota, seeing a reduction in quotas. The proceeds from these quotas were allegedly redirected to the accused. This compelled Namsov to sell its vessels, leading to job losses for fishermen employed by the company.

In 2020, after the arrests of the suspects, Cabinet resolved to facilitate the re-employment of Namsov fishermen and those who participated in an illegal strike in 2015. 

Despite government’s efforts to absorb all fishermen back into the industry, Klazen highlighted that people often fail to distinguish between the issues of the 2015 illegal strike and the saga.

 “There is a separation between the people who lost their jobs in 2015 due to the illegal strike. That is a story on its own, which lasted for more than five years. Regardless of the circumstances of the strike, the government stepped in to assist the affected fishermen, recognising their struggles and deciding to support their re-employment,” he clarified.

“We must be clear on that, and we all know that was a labour matter. Fishrot came, and it is something different and didn’t affect the illegal strike”, Klazen emphasised.

He said people in Walvis Bay know the truth, and should speak up as everyone is now blaming Fishrot for the situations they are finding themselves in.

“Sometimes, you must speak the truth also. That is what I am asking you. You know the truth, so speak the truth. Everyone is saying we are poor because of Fishrot, or committing suicide because of Fishrot. Let us acknowledge that not everything is a result of Fishrot,” the minister reiterated.