Laying the table for the elite

14 June 2018 | Opinion

Namibians have shown considerable interest in information workshops organised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, aimed at sensitising them on the new rules when applying for fishing rights. Last month fisheries minister Bernhard Esau invited Namibians, particularly the formerly disadvantaged, to apply for 96 new fishing rights in nine fisheries sectors. The new rights are for hake, horse mackerel, monk, red crab, rock lobster, line fish, large pelagic, mullet and Cape fur seals. The deadline for applications is 31 July. At the same time Esau also announced new requirements, which include that all applicants must be a shareholding privately held company - a (Pty) Ltd - were gazetted. He said this provision was aimed at protecting vulnerable communities and individuals that have in the past been used by some Section 21 companies, close corporations (CCs) or trusts as fronts for favourable consideration. For years these workshops have been kept away from the public eye and only a selected few knew exactly how to go about the process of applying for fishing rights. It also goes without saying that the political elite and their cronies have reaped the most benefits from fishing quotas and this should not be allowed to continue any longer. While we welcome the ministry's decision to host workshops countrywide, there are fears that the sessions are merely a smokescreen to an already pre-determined process. In addition, the decision to only include registered PTYs as potential beneficiaries has been a contentious matter and prospective applicants have particularly taken issue with the short deadline given for submissions. The ministry can therefore not claim to be transparent in this process while they have already gazetted the new requirements way before consultations started countrywide. Many Namibians are willing to participate in the economic activities of this country and it is up to the authorities to come up with policies that benefit a wider range of previously disadvantaged people, and not just the already rich and politically well-connected.

We sincerely hope that government is gearing up the process of fishing rights applications to benefit those in most need. We should not raise the hopes of the poor and vulnerable, while laying the table for the usual suspects - the elite - to eat.

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