Police seize Samherji vessel over Fishrot

10 February 2020 | Crime

A Samherji linked vessel, the Heinaste, was seized by Namibian authorities on Friday as part of the ongoing Fishrot case.

This was confirmed by Nelius Becker, head of the criminal investigation directorate of the Namibian Police. He said the vessel was seized on the basis of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

He added that the necessary requirements of the Article have been fulfilled such as that the vessel was used in relation of the alleged bribery of Namibian officials to the tune of N$150 million.

“We had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel might leave Namibia. The authorities will hold onto the vessel until the prosecutor general decides the way forward,” Becker said.

Earlier on Friday, Phillip Munenguni, the vice-president of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), called for the seizure of this specific vessel.

“We want the top management of Samherji to come to the table and sit with us and discuss the way forward for all these workers affected by their actions. Some men have lost their homes, their assets and even their wives when they were retrenched from Heinaste as well as ArcticNam. We also need government to join this discussion as we cannot have more than 200 fishermen jobless again. Fishrot had devastating consequences and is sending more fishermen to the streets.”

Munengani said he has been calling acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana to set up a meeting, but to no avail.

“You can come check my phone, I've been calling and texting but no answer. We don't know what is happening in the fishing industry as of this moment and we want answers. Government is supposed to protect its people from these capitalists, but it seems they are doing this [through the] back door.”

Saga Seafood, NUNW as well as the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) signed an agreement in relation to the workers of the vessels Saga and Geysir.

The two vessels recently left about 210 workers stranded.

The owner of the vessels, Samherji, explained that the Saga left for repairs in the Canary Islands, while the Geysir left to fish in Mauritiana.

Furthermore, they said that they left Namibian waters legally, seeking clearance from the fisheries ministry as well as the directorate of maritime affairs. Last Wednesday, Samherji released a statement saying they will be retrenching workers, and the following day, they said they will fulfil all obligations towards crew members.

“Samherji will strive to provide employment for as many of those affected as possible.”

On the other hand, the agreement Saga Seafood and the unions signed on Friday states the affected workers will be paid an incentive equivalent of two weeks' salary as per their salary scale. This incentive will not affect the monthly salary due to them or any other packages to be negotiated in future.

Jackie Thiardt, the sales and operations manager at Saga Seafood, said this incentive will be paid at the latest this Thursday.

“On 24 February, another meeting will be hosted to finalise the way forward. NUNW has also requested that the top management of the Samherji Group should be present at this meeting. We also agreed on a task group to be formed between the union branch organisers as well as the company.”

The final requirement on the agreement was that if the Heinaste was to be released and start operating again in Namibia, provision should be made for the crews of the Saga, Geysir and Heinaste to be employed again. However, Munenguni said that they will be revising the retrenchment package of the Heinaste crew, who were retrenched in 2019. “This package was not negotiated and neither was it paid out according to the Namibian labour law.

“The company simply paid the money according to their feelings and did not follow the procedures as prescribed by law.”

At the meeting, some of the workers emphasised that they want jobs, they want to work and do not just want to be 'paid out'.

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