No red herrings please!

31 May 2018 | Opinion

A call this week for Namibians, especially disadvantaged women, youth, the disabled, liberation war veterans and the poor, to apply for fishing rights, is expected to evoke much excitement and scrambling to get ducks in a row.

And why wouldn't it? The country is in the throes of an economic crunch that has seen thousands of retrenchments across sectors, while government spending cuts has the construction industry in a death choke.

It is especially during a time like this that desperate Namibians look wide-eyed at the 96 new fishing rights in nine fisheries sectors.

The new rights are for hake, horse mackerel, monkfish, red crab, rock lobster, line fish, large pelagic species, mullet, and Cape fur seals. The deadline for applications is 31 July.

But as hungry eyes study the Government Gazette containing the call to apply, many will pause at the section which stipulates that applicants must have a shareholding privately held company - a (Pty) Ltd.

It says further that Section 21 companies or natural persons may be incorporated as shareholders in the (Pty) Ltd companies.

All shareholders must be issued with share certificates and there must be a shareholders' agreement accompanying applications.

Fisheries minister Bernhard Esau said this was aimed at addressing the scenario where vulnerable communities and individuals were used by some Section 21 companies, close corporations (CCs) or trusts, as fronts for favourable consideration of applications.

This admittedly is true, as these communities are often excluded from dividend sharing, after rights are allocated.

However, this is as much an indictment on the ministry as it is on unscrupulous individuals who window dress to get tenders. Why was the dividing of dividends and other key aspects not addressed by the ministry in the past?

As for the Pty (Ltd) stipulation, this should have been announced along with a trade ministry task team to assist vulnerable individuals and communities through the registration process, as these processes can be cumbersome and daunting.

But in the end, after the inevitable jumping through hoops, it is up to Esau and his officials to ensure that those he mentioned loftily as potential beneficiaries indeed get their slice of the pie.

There should be no red herrings and no room to argue that the pie is already cut, wrapped and distributed for eating.

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