'Kawana forcing us into sex work, criminality'
24 July 2020 | Fishing
Employees at a Walvis Bay fish factory are begging fisheries minister Albert Kawana to hand the company a fishing quota or they will soon be unemployed and be forced to become sex workers or criminals.
They also pleaded with President Hage Geingob to intervene and save their jobs.
Shop steward Mathew Simasiku said their jobs are their only means of income to sustain both themselves and their families.
According to Simasiku, young female employees will have no other option than to become sex workers, while young men will be forced into criminal activities because of the situation they are facing and the pressure to feed their families.
“This situation we find ourselves in will have a huge impact on the rapid increase of Covid-19. We will be forced to roam around looking for food instead of staying at home,” he said.
“We are now unable to provide for our families. We are losing the ghettos we live in because we cannot afford to pay rent any more.”
The factory, Seaflower Pelagic Processing based in Walvis Bay, not to be confused with Seaflower White Fish in Lüderitz, was established on 15 May 2017. “With the NDP 5 objective of job creation, a commitment to allocate a 50 000-tonne quota per year for a period of 15 years and an investment of N$500 million was made, and 655 employees were recruited and started working for the factory in January 2019,” said Charlotte Solomons, a worker representative. Solomons said the employees, aged between 21 and 27, include women, people with disabilities and marginalised community members. They will be unemployed at the end of this month if the company does not get a quota.
“The minister is fully aware of our circumstances, as he was already briefed by our management in February.
“A commitment was made for us to become permanent employees as from 1 July 2020, when the company gets its full quota,” she said.
According to Solomons, the workers feel that the minister has been unfair towards them. “We hear that other companies are getting preference in quota allocations. What is so important about them?
“Several attempts have been made by the company to have an audience with the minister. He refuses to meet with us or management for reasons only known to him. What is our sin? Can the minster explain his decision to withdraw/withhold the quota?” she added.
“We are worried that the multimillion-dollar infrastructure we are sitting on here will turn into another Ramatex. We are worried about vessels standing idle. We are worried about losing our market customers such as Pick n Pay, Checkers and in other countries as well,” Solomons said.