Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhardt Esau indicated last week that he will soon announce the official commencement of the fishing rights application process for this year. The minister indicated that as of December 31, 2017, about 32 fishing rights had expired after being valid for 20 years. A further 75 fishing rights will expire by December 31, 2018, also after 20 years. This succession of events presents an opportunity for redistribution of natural resources – to the presently disadvantaged. We say this because the concept of ‘previously disadvantaged’ as a tool of consideration in the allocation of fishing rights is outdated and has caused this country untold exclusion. Local millionaires, hanging ‘previously disadvantaged’ tags around their necks, have perpetually benefitted under the guise of being black and therefore part of those who were discriminated against previously, when they actually have accumulated wealth through the advancement of the same argument over the years. How about looking at the currently disadvantaged and help them access the country’s blue economy for them to get on par with those previously disadvantaged (but are now economically liberated)? Every wave of fishing rights must create a crop of new millionaires, instead of enriching those that have already benefitted from the country’s riches through similar schemes. Or how blacker should the rest of the nation be in order to be considered for fishing and other rights? We must stop the tendency of a variety of our scarce resources rotating in the same few hands over and over. When considering the applications for fishing rights, government should also look at which applicants are already benefiting from other state resources such as mining rights (EPLs), tenders and so forth. Let us deliberately consider those who have nothing to show for being citizens of this country, apart from identify documents. We agree that right holders whose fishing rights have expired or are about to expire, but they have invested strongly and complied with other conditions as per the law, should be considered again. Some have established themselves in the industry and employ hundreds of workers. Let’s protect them and encourage them to keep improving for the benefit of their own and the country. We’re glad that Minister Esau gave the assurance last week that the ministry is determined to manage this process in a way that protects Namibian jobs and investments in the fisheries sector. But those who were previously granted rights and either underutilised the, or sold them for a quick buck, had their fair share and must thus leave the queue so that first time applicants can be considered. After all, the country is for all of us. Government initiatives such as NEEEF can only succeed if broader inclusivity is at the centre of processes like this. Fisheries is one of the sectors where the allocation of licenses, exploitation rights and quotas makes the state theoretically more likely to be successful in achieving genuine empowerment. It is also a primary test of the redistributive intentions of the state. This is a real possibility for government to enact a meaningful redistribution of quotas and go a step further in challenging the status quo whereby only a few citizens are eating from what is supposed to be a national cake.
2018-02-23 09:46:11 7 months ago