By: Martin Johannes
About 210 former employees of Saga Seafoods are appealing to government to hasten the process of securing them jobs by giving out quotas to other companies that are in operation in order to employ them.
Saga Seafood is the Samherji-owned company embroiled in the Fishrot scandal.
It closed its operations in Namibia in March 2020, saying it failed to secure any catch agreements due to its links to the scandal, resulting in more than 200 employees being sent home.
Last year, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Derek Klazen said that government was in the process of securing work for these unemployed fishermen by requesting proposals from fishing companies to absorb them.
Companies started sending in their proposals to the Ministry in February this year. Minister Klazen confirmed they were in the process of reviewing the proposals.
In April, it was stated that about 1,700 fishermen would be employed at various companies, such as Seaworks, Merlus Fishing, Hangana Seafood and Tunacor.
However, the former employees of Saga Seafood say they continue to languish in the street.
Two former employees of the company, who spoke to The Villager on condition of anonymity, said that they are aware that, last year, Cabinet approved the issuing of governmental objective quotas to companies for the sake of offering employment to the fishermen, “but they haven’t allocated them yet to companies that are willing to give the jobs such as Blue Cromis fishing company. The government should give us jobs. We are suffering due to the negligence of their officials.”
They continued: “We got involved in what is called the Fishrot scandal, we lost our valuables and we have families to take care of but the government is just turning a blind eye on us. We are demanding jobs with immediate effect.”
Another said, while government made an effort last year to make arrangements with some other fishing companies by taking a small number of other fishermen who were camping at Okapale in Walvis Bay and securing them jobs with fishing companies such as Hangana fishing company, they feel the promises are not fulfilled.
“We are not getting the same amount of money that was agreed during the recruitment process and we were told that we will be going in the sea but only a few numbers were being considered and we ended up being dumped in the factory. We are fishermen but not factory workers,” he told The Villager.
Regional Coordinator of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union John Shayuka said the union was aware of the former employees’ demands, and the union supports them.
“We are involved. We are always meeting these former employees and taking their questions. We write letters to the Fisheries Ministry in order to get feedback and demand for these people to get back to work but we don’t know where the delay is. They promised to secure them jobs but their process takes too long, not knowing that these individuals are suffering and some have lost their lives.”
Shayuka said the union is in solidarity with the fishermen, and is trying to find amicable and positive answers from the ministry.
“If nothing comes up these days we will take action.”
When approached for comment, the Executive Director in the Fisheries Ministry Anelly Haifene confirmed that she was aware that the former Saga Seafoods and Geysir employees were waiting for an update from the Ministry, and that the process is at an advanced stage.
“Cabinet approved the first request, but we were given conditions that we send out a bid for fair participation of fishing companies to show their interest in a fair and transparent manner,” Haifene said.
“We have received bids and we are hard at work to make sure that we give bids to responsible companies that have factories, and that can truly provide employment. We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes we did in the past. We are currently at an advanced stage with our bidding verification process. We feel the pain that these people are going through and we will soon give them an amicable answer,” she told The Villager.