Fisheries minister to keep on fighting for fishermen’s widows

Fisheries minister Bernard Esau has vowed that justice will prevail for members of the Fishermen’s Widows Trust.

28 January 2019 | Fishing

Bernard Esau; Minister of fisheries; “The Namibian fishing resource is here for all and not just for certain people.”

Leandrea Louw - The minister of Fisheries and mariner sources Bernard Esau assured members of the Fishermen’s Widow Trust (FWT) that fairness will eventually prevail in their quest for justice.

“We’ve been in this battle together for some time now. For as long as I live, I’ll keep on fighting with the widows for righteousness,” the minister told members of the FWT at an event organised by the National Fishing Corporation (Fishcor).

The members of the FWT have been locked in a protracted battle with Ehika Fishing.

A group of 111 fishermen widows, who on paper have 40% shareholding in a fishing company since 2012, lifted the veil on how they were initially paid a monthly stipend of N$1 400 each, which was then reduced to N$700 in 2016 and then subsequently stopped.

Ehika Fishing managing director Rojo van Wyk previously explained that the payments to the widows were “redirected to raise additional funds needed for the construction of infrastructure intended to add value to the horse mackerel industry.

Ehika applied for a N$27 million loan from the Development Bank of Namibia and received only N$17 million to finance the construction of a cold storage facility in Narraville.

The minister said that he did not wish to divulge too much and alluded to the fact that the fishing right of Ehika expired at the end of 2018.

“At this stage I do not wish to disclose what is yet to come. Something however needs to happen and will happen. Our president has reiterated many times before that no one should feel left out. This also applies to our mothers, our grandmothers and our widows.”

In reference to the management of Ehika, Esau said that the law will prevail, “even if the company make use of lawyers”.

“I had intense conversations with the late Clive Johannes about the future of the Trust and what we discussed in depth how to move forward. We will struggle onward for justice. The Namibian fishing resource belongs to all and not just to certain people.”

Esau informed the widows during consultations through the course of 2018 that records at his ministry indicate that FWT has a 40% stake in Ehika Fishing, which is involved in a fishing rights joint venture (JV) with Mack Fishing, while Rojo van Wyk holds 30% shareholding, Eddie van Wyk 15% and Clive Johannes 15%. Johannes has since died and his children have inherited his shareholding.

He further emphasised that the FWT must be owned by the widows, as an independent autonomous body that owns a 40% shareholding in Ehika.

Members of the Fishermen Widows Trust (FWT) subsequently elected a five-member interim committee last year in line with a directive by Minister Esau.

He also instructed Van Wyk to facilitate the full operation of the widows' trust and that the widows should elect its officials after FWT members complained about a lack of transparency and consultation.

The minster furthermore directed that a bank account be opened, which will be operated solely by the widows, and requested the company to submit audited financial, and bank, statements showing how dividends (profits) were shared in Ehika Fishing since 2012 to date.

Milly Isaacs, the chairperson of FWT expressed gratitude to the minister for fighting alongside the widows in their quest for righteousness.

“Our men were at the forefront of fishing and provided for their families. They are no more and we find ourselves in the precarious situation of having to fend for our families. Without the minister standing in and in the absence of our belated husband’s things would have been a lot tougher for us widows. The members of the FWT are standing firm and patiently waits for a solution to this issue affecting them.”

The committee recently completed the registering of beneficiaries and updated the data base of the FWT. All members were requested to submit certified copies of their ID’s, death certificates of husbands, seamen’s books and letters of employment indicating where their deceased husbands were employed. More than 100 fishermen widows were registered. The documentation was forwarded to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) upon instruction from minister Esau.

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