Action, not promises

13 December 2019 | Opinion

Acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana's utterances on Wednesday in Walvis Bay, where he addressed the fishing industry, must have come as music to the ears of retrenched workers, who were sent packing when quotas were reallocated in favour of Fishrot scandal beneficiaries. Thousands lost their jobs due to Namibian companies losing their quotas under dubious circumstances during the tenure of former minister Bernhardt Esau. Kawana has now promised that these workers will get their jobs back. He told those at the gathering on Wednesday that he had been instructed by the cabinet to make sure that all those who had lost their jobs are employed as soon as possible. One cannot overemphasise what these fishing workers have gone through over the past few years. Many of them have been unable to find alternative work and have thus not been able to care for their families. Besides the allegations of N$150 million in bribes being paid to Namibian politicians and officials by an Icelandic company to facilitate access to our fishing resources, the plight of the fishermen remains the most telling part of this scandal. Kawana has invited all trade unions to meet with him on Tuesday to discuss the way forward in terms or re-employing these workers. Their suffering has indeed been immense, and as Kawana said this week, the time has come for them to have bread on the table. It is a fact that nobody in Namibia should be hungry or poor given our population size, and the country's natural resources must benefit all. Yet the fact remains that companies like Namsov, which were hit hardest by the Fishrot conniving, have closed down their fishing businesses, so simple promises will not suffice. What is critical now is for a concrete plan to be put on the table which indicates exactly how this re-employment exercise will take place, with stringent timeframes. Promises won't feed hungry families.

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