WALVIS BAY - The local shareholder of the Seal Products factory at Henties Bay, Gabriel Uahengo, has appealed to the fisheries ministry to step in and address the situation at the factory before international animal rights groups put Namibia in the spotlight.
Uahengo’s appeal comes after the Henties Bay municipality temporarily closed the seal processing factory on Friday, saying it was a health hazard for the town and factory employees. Henties Bay mayor Lewies Vermaak, who visited the factory earlier on Friday, said he was greeted with a stench and rotten seal carcasses lying in pools of blood on the floor. “The smell was so intense. The floors were full of blood. It is disappointing that people should work in such conditions. We had to close them down until we decide it is safe for our people to go work again,” he stressed.
The owners were given an ultimatum to sort out the mess, including cleaning up the factory. “Our health inspector will visit the factory again to see if its condition has changed. If not, they will remain closed,” Vermaak added. Footage seen from the factory by New Era also shows several rotten carcasses in heaps on the factory floor, while workers complained that they are working with seals that had been killed at least two days prior. “I have been working here for more than 10 years, but I have never experienced what I have seen today. How can we work in such an environment?” one of the employees can be heard asking in one of the recordings.
Meanwhile, Uahengo yesterday said that he is saddened by the state of affairs. “Seal culling is a very sensitive matter, and the footage was not even supposed to get out as we will face international pressure. Animal watchdogs are already on our case,” he noted. “I am not in Henties Bay. I am currently consulting with lawyers on the ownership of the factory, seeing that my two partners sold it to a Chinese businessman, and these challenges are as a result of that,” he continued.
“The new partner is not communicating with me, and I assume they are harvesting more seals than what the factory processes in a day. What I can, however, tell you is that this is the first time we are seeing this in the 20 years we are operating, and I am disappointed.” Two former partners, Gys Cilliers and Josea Swart, sold their shares to a Chinese businessman who has been running the factory for about two months now. New Era could not reach former partner Cilliers. The other partner Swart died two weeks ago in a car accident.