Geingob chucks-out fish-tied ministers from Cabinet

By Max Hamata

FISHERIES Minister Albert Kawana, along with several other senior ministers with potentially conflicting interests in the fishing industry were this week asked to leave a special Cabinet session led by President Hage Geingob to discuss fishing rights and related matters, Confidente has reliably learnt.

A notably disappointed Geingob reportedly asked a range of his ministers – with the exception of Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Defense and Veterans Affairs Minister Hafeni Vilho, Works and Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo, Works and Transport Minister John Mutorwa and Urban and Rural Development Minister Uutoni Erastus – to recuse themselves from the special decision-making meeting on Tuesday.

Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa on Wednesday confirmed that several ministers were indeed asked to leave the meeting in a bid to ensure transparency. “In the spirit of transparency, the President asked if there was anyone conflicted.

Those that had fishing rights, those that have fishing rights and those that applied for fishing rights were requested to leave the meeting in the spirit of transparency and good governance,” Simataa said.

Confidente has it on good records that several ministers, their acquaintances and relatives have interests in a number of fishing rights applications submitted in 2018.

Fisheries Minister Kawana had proposed that Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday discuss the concerns arising from the delay in the granting of fishing rights and the allocation of quotas prior to 2020.

The delay in the granting of fishing rights in recent months and the arrest of the former fisheries minister at the end of 2019 brought new concerns to light last week when the ministry’s executive director, Dr. Moses Maurihungirire, wrote to several companies that had not applied for fishing rights, asking them to prove whether they did, prompting suspicion that the move could be a ploy to add new companies onto the final list of beneficiaries.

Kawana subsequently defended his executive director, instead accusing Confidente of harassing Maurihungirire for asking about the suspicious letter to companies that never applied for fishing rights.

There are also concerns that the Minister and his Executive Director have isolated technical experts in his ministry who are skilled in evaluating and assessing the bids for fishing rights.

Insider sources told Confidente that Geingob was taken by surprise by the latest development at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, particularly since he expected the new leadership to clean up the rot at the corruption-tainted ministry.

Industry observers say it is hard to believe that the top administrators in the ministry were entirely unaware of the massive corruption taking place under their noses over the past decade, during which time the Fishrot scam was in full swing, because it would mean that the responsible officials were either highly incompetent not to detect any wrongdoing, or may themselves have been complicit.

There is no suggestion in this report that Maurihungirire, who has been in the role as chief accounting officer of the ministry since mid-2015, knew that there was anything illicit going on.

But in his unusual letters last month – which raised eyebrows in the industry, Maurihungirire wrote to a number of companies to say: “Subsequent to the evaluation of fishing rights applications, as called for in 2018, it was noted that your company was not among the evaluated companies. Our records show that you did not apply for fishing rights. Kindly confirm whether you submitted an application and attestation letter in the regard.”

At Tuesday’s Cabinet session, Geingob asked the ministers who were conflicted, including Kawana to recuse themselves from the meeting.

Amongst other issues that Kawana reportedly wanted to table at Cabinet, before he and several other ministers were asked to recuse themselves, was the granting of fishing rights to new and expired right holders and the allocation of quotas to right holders of the remaining two-thirds of the monk TAC (total allowable catch) for the 2020/2021 fishing season.

The fisheries minister also wanted to discuss the scorecard for the evaluation of applications and allocation of fish quotas in the marine resources sector, which was introduced by his predecessor.

He further wanted to discuss the re-employment of fisheries workers who lost their jobs as a result of the mass retrenchment at Namsov in response to the loss of quota, and unsanctioned industrial action by the fishermen, as well as the appraisal of the recent recommendations of the High Level Panel on the Namibian Economy, and their implementation.

Kawana had not responded to questions sent to him at the time of going to print.