Fishermen widows’ saga drags on


03 September 2018 | Ministries

Otis Finck

Fisheries and marine resources minister Bernard Esau says he will pronounce himself on the ongoing saga between the Fishermen Widows Trust (FWT) and Ehika Fishing before the end of this year.

When asked for feedback on the issue, Esau told Erongo that he was deeply disturbed by the behaviour of Rojo van Wyk, the managing director of Ehika Fishing.

“He has not responded to the directives I issued to him. It will be tough luck for him. He cannot take government for granted and should not blame me if I cancel his fishing right. We are at a stage where he forced me to act. People are exploiting the vulnerable. The widows have 40% shareholding in the company and I am not happy with what has transpired.”

Committee members of the FWT thanked the minister for his continuous support towards their cause and stressed that they are facing an uphill battle in their search for fairness.

“The widows are starving and we cannot support them while Van Wyk is being uncooperative. He is adamant that he acted and is acting within the confines of the law.”

The minister issued a number of directives to Van Wyk after a meeting in February this year in Walvis Bay. Esau also requested that the company submit audited financial and bank statements showing how dividends (profits) were shared in Ehika Fishing since 2012.

“In the event that the FWT did not receive proportionate share dividends, all outstanding balances must be deposited in the bank account of the trust immediately. I also want written justification for the monies supposedly redirected by the company to investments. This must be satisfactory to both the company and FWT,” Esau wrote to Van Wyk in a letter dated 23 February.

Debt estimated at N$19 million incurred by Ehika for the construction of a cold storage facility in Narraville also remains a contentious issue and main concern for the widows.

The widows were initially paid a monthly stipend of N$1 400 each. This was then reduced to N$700 in 2016 and stopped prior to the construction of a state of the art commercial cold store and fish processing facility. Van Wyk was quoted in the media stating that the facility with a storage capacity of 1200 tons was developed at an estimated cost of N$30 million and financed by shareholders equity and a loan from the Development Bank of Namibia.

Elected FWT committee members do not want to take liability for this debt saying if they do so it could result in the widows not receiving any dividend payments for the next 5 to 10 years.

The committee explained that they had meetings with Van Wyk to discuss the implementation of the directives issued by minister Esau since their inception.

“We only obtained financial statements from Van Wyk and produced a recon of the outstanding payments due to the widows. The Excel sheet contains a substantial figure (estimate of dividends) owed to the FWT by Van Wyk. This was presented to Van Wyk for clarity. He however told us that he was not going to entertain it.”

This compelled the committee to approach Esau once more for assistance and in order to resolve the issue.

Van Wyk informed the FWT that he was unable to meet the deadline issued by the minister. He undertook to forward relevant documentation by 6 August at the latest. The committee then requested that he informs the minister.

Enquiries by the chairperson of the FWT, Millie Isaaks, directed to the ministry indicated that Van Wyk had not responded to the directive of the minister yet. Van Wyk did not want to comment when approached.

The company’s shareholders, who include Van Wyk (30%), Clive Johannes (15%) and Eddy van Wyk (15%), established it to assist widows (40%) and children of former fishermen in Walvis Bay.

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