'We are out in the cold'...jobless fishermen share their agony at Walvis Bay protest
WALVIS BAY - Hundreds of people, wearing mostly T-shirts bearing the Namibian flag, rallied yesterday in Walvis Bay to demonstrate against corruption in light of the unfolding ‘Fishrot’ scandal that has implicated former ministers and businesspeople.
“We have been going through depression and suffering since my father lost his job. And life has not been the same for us since then.”
These were some of the harships families of seamen, who lost their jobs due to an illegal strike, highlighted during a mass protest at the harbour town.
Hundreds of sympathisers joined the march in solidarity with the now jobless fishermen by walking through the streets of Kuisebmond and Narravile during the two-hour protest, which ended with addresses by various political party leaders, youth activists and Dr Panduleni Itula.
The protest march was particulalry against the widely reported international fishing kickback scandal involving at least over N$100 million. Among those implicated are former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala who headed the justice porfolio. Both ministers were forced to resign over the scandal. Esau, Shanghala and three of their co-accused reportedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia.
According to media reports, Samherji’s CEO and biggest shareholder Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson authorised the bribe payments.
The other three accused are former managing director of Investec Asset Management Namibia James Hatuikulipi, his cousin Tamson ‘Fitty’ Hatuikulipi, who is also the son-in-law of Esau, and Ricardo Gustavo, a senior manager at Investec Asset Management Namibia and currently on suspension. Pius Mwatelulo is the sixth accused.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, seaman Jekonia Shivute, 47, said although he was not married, he lost almost everything after he was fired over his participation in a wildcat strike in Walvis Bay.
“I worked for 14 years for Namsov before I lost my job due to our illegal strike. We never wanted higher salaries – just better working conditions, as it get dangerous out at sea,” he expressed.
Richard Mbahe, who also worked for Namsov, says life has been a daily struggle since he lost his job. “It is a constant battle to feed my children. We are out in the cold. The sad part is that those who were supposed to fight for our working conditions are the ones who caused our downfall.
All we ever wanted was for our concerns to be addressed, as it was genuine,” he said. Gabriel Gabriel, 24, says he had to do odd jobs to support his siblings and still attend school when his father lost his job in 2015 due to the illegal strike. Mathew Lungameni, who spoke on behalf of the former seagoing personnel, said the workers wanted what is owed to them, following the strike.
“Government, alongside Shanghala and Esau, failed us, regardless if they claim our strike was illegal. They were supposed to listen and investigate. Instead, we were ignored, seeing that they also have their own selfish interests that cost us thousands of jobs and lives as a result, “ he said.
Eveline de Klerk
2019-12-11 07:51:34 | 7 months ago