Louw breaks silence on Seaflower, Fishcor divorce

By Hilary Mare

AFRICAN Selection Fishing (Namibia) executive chairman, Adriaan Jacobus Louw has broken his silence on the marriage between African Selection Fishing and Fishcor that brought rise to Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP).

Having invested in the region of N$790 million in Walvis Bay, Louw who has distanced dealings between African Selection Fishing and Fishcor from the Fishrot saga this week exclusively spoke to Confidente giving account of the broken relationship between his company and government entity, Fishcor.

African Selection Fishing, a Namibian company, holds 60 percent equity share in SPP, wherein Louw is the 95 percent majority shareholder.

“When government sourced for a partner to commence a land-based pelagic processing factory, all the elements that were being brought to the table by government had already been published in two government gazettes. The 50 000mt horse mackerel quota and the prime land was already there when government decided to try and get value out of most of their fish after Namsov (Bidvest) and Erongo (Oceana) had made billions for almost 20 years with very little return to government.

“This is when we came in as a partner that believes that all catch in Africa should be landed. This means creation of jobs, value addition and contribution to the fiscus. This opportunity was offered to Namsov, Erongo and the Icelanders who all refused. We took the deal and invested extensively in the factory and three vessels but to date we have received not a single cent back from such a massive investment in which Fishcor has hardly complied with its side of the agreement, delivering the gazetted quota,” he bemoaned.

“How can 50 000 tons quota be perceived too much if it employs in excess of 1 100 Namibian jobs? The same quantity is caught by two freezer trawlers which employ 100 Namibians.”

Confidente has it on good authority that African Selection Fishing is readying a substantial claim against Fishcor. This will be for the 50 000mt that allegedly disappeared in 2018, 20 000mt that also were sold by Fishcor at the expense of African Selection Fishing in 2019 and the 25 000mt that the company was short-changed in their allocation this year. This claim, Confidente believes, will also include operational losses for this year.

Further bemoaning the treatment that his company has received from government over the few months, Louw who was raised in Karasburg and traces half of his roots to Namibia recalls putting up the massive pelagic factory in record time in a bid to reform Namibia’s horse mackerel industry which previously was dominated by profiteers who had little regard for national growth and job creation.

The factory is an over 14 000 sqm under-roof facility.

“We built this factory working day and night. We worked as slaves. We built the cannery, fish meal plant and freezing facility. I headhunted the best people in Walvis Bay and from all over the world to ensure world class delivery of work. We worked under spotlights because this project had to be done in record time and we delivered it in record time,” Louw explained adding that he was dismayed that officials from Fishcor today speak negatively about a project that government spearheaded itself as showcased by up to three available government gazettes that rubber stamped the deal.

“It’s so strange that just last year we were the success story of how a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) works. Government used to bring delegates from outside Namibia to show them this flagship project. A recent judgement says that we should have known that the people who were on the board dealt in underhand dealings. How could we have possibly known when this project was at every stage rubber stamped by Cabinet?

“At the ground-breaking, I recall President Hage Geingob himself saying to me, ‘thank you buying into this project’. How then could this now be regarded as a corrupt project even when we have had a forensic investigation that has exonerated us from any wrongdoing?” further queried Louw before highlighting that he intends to lodge an official complaint to government.

In March, Fishcor awarded SPP a tender to supply 200 000 trays of canned pilchards, each tray consisting of 12x400g canned pilchard at an estimated value of N$35 million.

“If we were the criminals as they suppose, how then did they award us such a tender? You can’t say we are criminals and in the same vein go on to give us business.”

Louw maintains that he still harbours the ambition to see the factory work and to save the jobs that are currently there while creating more jobs.

Confidente was privy to a list of 450 Namibians that had been shortlisted to start work early Novemberin the new cannery plant, excluding 655 that were already employed by the factory, totalling over 1 100 staff.

“No one seems to care about these people who are over 95 percent youth and over 70 percent women. As a matter of fact we lost fishing for a month during March lockdown and then again four months from end May without quota when fishing was at its best. People are just making statements.

“These are Namibians that we are letting go to struggle. They have also tried to engage a lawyer to speak to the minister but they have not gotten any responses. They hand delivered a signed petition to the Erongo Governor and had a peaceful strike. No one seems to care. It is sad that from the onset in 2018, Fishcor has never respected our agreement. Since the first year, they have been playing games playing with the lives of our fellow Namibians,” said Louw.