Govt quota auction sparks 'second Fishrot' fears

11 August 2020 | Fishing

LEANDREA LOUW

WALVIS BAY



Fishing industry players are worried that the country will be plunged into another Fishrot scandal if the government auctions its fishing quotas for “governmental objectives” to the highest bidder.

Phillip Munenguni, vice-president of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), says he does not want the industry to fall into the same trap as the Fishrot bribery scandal, which involves hundreds of millions in bribes allegedly being paid to politicians and officials in exchange for Icelandic company Samherji being given preferential access to Namibia's fishing grounds. “If we needed money so urgently to fight Covid-19, why the delay? Our leaders are simply drinking the same wine, just in a different bottle. We should have learned enormous lessons from Fishrot,” Munenguni said. “The problem we have is that this quota was created with a purpose for certain politicians to receive kickbacks and how it was handled gave rise to one of the biggest corruption scandals in Namibia. This decision is giving us a lot of doubts as we no longer trust the leadership - not even the current minister of fisheries. “How do we know that these quotas won't be sold to foreigners who will bring their own rules and regulations? Once this quota is auctioned to the highest bidder, they can dictate and bring their own workers. We have engineers who still find themselves on the streets with no job prospects,” Munenguni said.





Too late

Matti Amukwa, chairman of the confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, says it is too late in the season for auctioning quotas to local and international bidders.

“We are approaching the end for the hake season, which is end of September. The horse mackerel season will end December and the monk season runs from May to April.

“How are we going to bring in foreign fishing vessels if borders are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Background checks need to be done on vessels entering our waters to ensure that they have not been involved with any illegal fishing.

“There are so many questions … and we have only six weeks till the hake season ends. Time won't stand still and wait for us to set everything in motion,” Amukwa says.

He added that the fishing industry was not properly consulted about the auction.



Covid-19 funding

It was revealed recently that the government is auctioning its fishing quotas to the highest bidder to raise funds for the Covid-19 response.

The so-called “governmental objective” quotas are usually allocated to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), which is at the centre of the Fishrot scandal.

The minister of fisheries and marine resources, Dr Albert Kawana, explained in a letter that the government urgently needs emergency funds.

“We do not produce medicines in Namibia, nor do we manufacture medical equipment. We are forced to compete for medicines and medical equipment in the international market. The only resource that can speedily give foreign currency is the fisheries. This will allow us to stockpile medical equipment and medicine in this state of emergency,” he wrote.



40% for local companies

“The auction will ensure government collects enough revenue and enhances transparency in the allocation of government quotas as opposed to the old approach,” he said.

He said 40% of the hake and horse mackerel quota would be reserved for Namibian companies in order to preserve jobs.

The quota available for auction is 72 000 tonnes for horse mackerel, 11 000 tonnes for hake and 392 tonnes for monkfish.

“This decision took into account the fact that the remaining fishing season is very short, especially for hake, which is less than two months,” Kawana said.

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