WALVIS BAY – Interim board chairperson of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) Heinrich Mihe Gaomab has defended
his resignation from the Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) board. Gaomab and another board member Ruth Herunga resigned from SPP this week, citing a conflict of interest as the Walvis Bay-based company is suing the government for outstanding fish quotas.
“This does not change our mandate as a temporary board as appointed by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, last month to address the strategic, financial, commercial and operational challenges facing Fishcor and the Seaflower Whitefish Corporation Limited (SWC),” Gaomab said this week. He added that the temporary board members are still mandated to continue exercising their fiduciary duty in terms of the provisions of the Public Enterprise Act No 1 of 2019. “This reiterates that the board has not resigned from Fishcor,” he said. Gaomab explained that Fishcor, as a shareholder of SPP, is required to have two directors serving on the SPP board. Gaomab added that he and Herunga were subsequently appointed by board resolution at SPP but had to resign on Monday due to the ongoing legal battle. African Selection Fishing Namibia holds 60% shares in SPP whose main shareholder is businessman Adriaan Louw. Government holds 40% shares through Fishcor and was expected to grant 50 000 metric tons of horse mackerel to the company for 15 years due to an agreement signed in 2017 following a Cabinet decision. A quota of 24 333 tons of horse mackerel is outstanding for the current season.
Government opted this year to auction off the fish quotas directly instead of disposing of it through Fishcor, which is embroiled in an international fishing bribery scandal.
Meanwhile, the High Court is expected to give a ruling today on the urgent application lodged by SPP last Friday in which it is seeking an interdict against the fisheries ministry to halt the auctioning of fishing quotas. SPP believes their outstanding quota is part of the 72 000 metric tons of horse mackerel that is up for auction. “Based on this agreement, we set up a fish-processing plant at Walvis Bay, but its factory has not been operating for months this year because Fishcor has not received its envisaged horse mackerel quota of 50 000 tons, and as a result has not made that quota available to SPP either,” SPP’s Louw said in an affidavit. According to documents filed by SPP, the state company would allow Seaflower to utilise a horse mackerel quota of 50 000 tons allocated, which was guaranteed to Fishcor for 15 years, having started in 2017. Fisheries minister Albert Kawana last week said that the government will not succumb to growing pressure to stop it from auctioning the country’s fishing quotas to the highest bidder. He said measures have been put in place to ensure the funds raised are used to fulfil the government’s objectives. Information minister Peya Mushelenga this week pointed out there is a misconception when it comes to the issue of fishing quotas, saying Namibians should understand that only the governmental objective quota is being auctioned. He said because of Fishcor’s involvement in the Fishrot scandal, the government had to terminate the company from the governmental objective quota and had to devise a transparent method, which is intended to test the market to ascertain the true value of the country’s marine resources. Government is set to auction, 72 000 metric tons of horse mackerel, 11 000 metric tons of hake and 392 metric tons of monk to the highest bidder.