Open letter to the President
I refer to the recently announced fishing rights. As a war veteran I am disgusted that the same old elite and senior government officials are once again prioritised against the ordinary people who need to make themselves self-sustainable. I have therefore written an open letter to the President to address the issue.
Dear Mr. President,
Sir, your office is the only place to which the general public can vent their dissatisfaction and frustration in the hope that their voices are heard. It is therefore with the utmost respect that this letter is written.
I want to express very clearly my disappointment as a war veteran of the People’s Liberation of Namibia, the declaration by government that we are non-rights holders and therefore have to be considered with other Namibians in the same predicament for fish rights. My dissatisfaction is not based on entitlement because I have applied with other similarly disadvantaged Namibians.
We mean well to engage honest business activities to sustain ourselves without asking for money from government. However, we feel that our government does not care to make us self-sufficient as the recently leaked secretive fishing rights awarding and quota allocation shows. Against the dark cloud of ‘fishrot’, this is a further kick in the teeth of us the ordinary people who are not part of the elite and the high ranking officials of government.
Mr. President, the sense of hope in government as being for all the people seems to be withering. Rampant selfish interests only serving the broader leadership, the elite within our party and government is now the order of the day. Politicians resent seeing war veterans being taken care of by the government. We have lost hope and trust in the people whom we call our leaders.
Mr. President, trust is gained through transparency and accountability, while secrecy and evasiveness breeds suspicion. One reason that makes people stronger together is alignment of interests. When interests are aligned, everyone is pulling in the same direction and for a unified outcome. It is therefore good for national unity.
However, the unfortunate part is that the tool in this instance is patronage. People align themselves for continued economic gain, political advancement and self-enrichment. This patronage only serves to alienate the poor.
And as long as, there is unequal distribution of wealth between the poor and the rich, the poor will remain dissatisfied with evasive answers given to them. People may one day resort to lawlessness to force the government to act. The Government’s failure to realise the development mandate of working collaboratively with people to meet their socio-economic and material needs while improving their lives, could cause serious instability.
Sir, I am making reference to recent applications for rights to harvest marine resources and allocation of quota under section 33(1) of Marine Resource Act, 2000 (Act: 27 of 2000), as was announced in the Government Gazette Notice No: 92&93 of May 2018, of which key criteria for consideration of applications are specified in Annexure 2 of schedule, please refer to Government Notice No: 92 of 2018, stating “I will only consider applications for rights to harvest the marine resources specified in Annexure1 if applicants comply with the criteria specified in Annexure 2 of the schedule” said former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau.
However, feet dragging and injustice caused the delay in granting of fishing rights in 2019 as was anticipated.
Now the challenge is that we are in unchartered waters brought about by the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources who was supposed to have cleaned up the rot at the corruption-tainted Ministry. The new sheriff promised to carry out his mandate with a clear conscience, and committed to treat all applicants including new Namibian entrants to the industry for fishing rights equally and for the process to be transparent.
However, I feel we have been duped by Hon. Kawana’s conduct who was able to manipulate the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act like his predecessor. We expected to be treated equally and fairly, and for the process to be transparent.
As the ‘fishrot’ saga has revealed this as nothing but a scheme set up to benefit a group of Namibian elites and their proxies.
Mr. President, the Cabinet’s directive of non-rights holders’ status for war veterans and ex-Robben Island prisoners is a carefully orchestrated convenience ploy. It’s an absolute travesty of justice designed simply to alienate, discriminate and deprive war veterans from inclusivity that you preach.
I believe there is a concerted secret pact; a conspiracy between our lawmakers that have interests in the fishing rights and the top management in the Fisheries and Marine Resources ministry. It’s got the hallmark of a Mafioso organisation with emphasis on a code of silence (omerta, like in Sicily, Italy).
The Honourable Minister’s decision is causing consternation amongst the majority of us characterised as non-rights holders because of the overwhelming applications by the veterans. Who, according to the fisheries minister, are beneficiaries of fishing quotas under a rights holder entity named Joint Venture 11? Who are these people who supposedly get quotas for our benefit that we don’t know about or have never of? Is it a clandestine setup to enrich another group by making use of the war veteran’s name to enrich themselves? We don’t know them.
This joint venture arrangement is nothing but a conduit meant to be used for facilitating rights and fishing quotas that will ensure that even if the Minister in the position changes there will be no need to touch or change the arrangement, but to ensure that quota is issued to the elite, as was once said by the now disgraced former Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala, “The fishing opportunity in Namibia is not available for everyone, that before everyone wakes up, they need to move and make an impact”.
Please allow me to quote a phrase in the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), “I am acutely aware of the burning desire of the Namibian people to inhabit a Namibian House where there is no poverty. Namibians want a house where everyone feels sense of belongingness, where everyone is presented with a fair opportunity to prosper in an inclusive manner and by so doing, ensure that no one feels left out”.
Our lawmakers have colluded to advance their selfish interests. The Cabinet knew in advance there won’t be rights left to be granted to war veterans. This raises discontent and suspicion that something is fishy.
Further, in so doing the minister raises the public expectations, creating a false perception that the process would be transparent, fair and give meaning to Government Policy of inclusivity and particularly empowerment of all previously disadvantaged Namibians to benefit from the natural resources of this country.
By the same token, we understand that the evaluation process is incomplete and the granting of rights to those companies has not gone through as should be in accordance with Annexure 1 and 2 of the Government Gazette 24 May 2018.
Apparently the University of Namibia only checked on compliance of applicants, and did not produce a shortlist of eligible applicants to be considered for rights and hence, the awarding of additional fishing quotas to some of those who profited for the past 20 years is flawed and not compliant with the criteria specified in Annexure1 and 2 of the Schedule of the Gazette notice number 9 of 2018.
Mr. President, ordinary people are side-lined in favour of a well-connected few, their proxies, the middle class and political elite, at the expense of needy and deserving people. This is what is creating uncertainty, anger and frustration amongst the people.
The Minister must do the honourable thing and release the evaluation report and recommendations with the shortlist of beneficiaries to the extent necessary to maintain transparency in the application criteria of section 33(1) read with section 33(3) of the Marine Resources Act, 2000, which allows all Namibians to exercise their democratic and legal right of applying for the marine resources.
Mr. President. It’s imperative that Government holds officials accountable for any abuse of power, and ensure efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness, and transparency in any sphere. Hence the necessity for an urgent intervention that could change the dire socio-economic conditions of our communities in need.
May God bless this beautiful land of the brave.
Please, accept the assurance of my highest admiration, Sir