Seaflower Pelagic guaranteed quota slashed to 43%

By Hilary Mare and Rosalia David

A recent decision by the government to move towards termination of the N$20 billion deal that established Seaflower Pelagic Processing – a partnership between the state-owned fishing company Fishcor and African Selection Fishing – has put the factory on the brink of collapse with at least 600 employees already sent packing.

In its establishment, the partnership was guaranteed 50 000mt of the pelagic fish species for 15 years by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in a notice published in the Government Gazette of May 15 2017.

With Seaflower Pelagic Processing now roped in at the centre of an alleged money laundering ‘fishrot’ scandal,  Confidente confirms that the company only received 43 percent of the guaranteed quota leading to a halt in operations at the pelagic processing factory and subsequently, massive job losses.

This month the company notified 600 fixed-term contractors who were working at the freezing plant that their contracts are terminated effective June 30 and 22 permanent employees were retained on operational requirements with hefty pay cuts, for 3 months, while they are also subject to retrenchment in that period.

The drive to recruit 450 employees for the cannery department has also been put on halt.

“Shareholders are battling to get this fixed and we are committed to employ all workers permanently upon rectification of our 50 000 tons allocation as per Gazette,” general manager of Sea Flower Pelagic in Walvis Bay, Adolf Burger told Confidente this week adding that 1 100 employees in an industry that employs a total of 17 000 is too big a number to ignore and that they will continue to fight for employees.

The existing onshore pelagic processing factory is over 14 000 sqm is an under-roof facility to the value of approximately N$470 million.

The capital injection of the project included N$160 million from Fishcor that was used to purchase the land where the factory is built and N$560 million from African Selection Fishing (Namibia) (Pty) Ltd,  which was used on the factory (N$260 million) and vessels (N$250 million). The equity ratios were 40 percent for Fishcor and 60 percent for African Selection Fishing (Namibia).

A Cabinet decision seen by Confidente shows that government allocated 21 667 mt of the 50 000mt to Seaflower Pelagic Processing for this fishing season to preserve some jobs pending finalisation of the solution being looked at regarding the joint venture.

“This is not sufficient for the factory which has a capacity of 100 000 tons but was built for a minimum quota of 50 000 tons,” Burger said adding that a petition signed by many of the workers had been delivered to Erongo Governor, Neville Andre last week.

“I will be meeting the management next week,” Andre told Confidente when asked what he intended to do with the petition.

Quizzed on why the government had backtracked on its deal to guarantee a sufficient quota for the factory, Public Enterprise Minister, Leon Jooste said: “We are looking into this matter and will only be in a position to respond once we have concluded consultations.”

Haunted by Fishrot

Having five directors in its inception which included former Fishcor board chairperson James Hatuikulipi and former Fishcor CEO, Mike Nghipunya – both now arrested over the Fishrot scandal – Seaflower Pelagic Processing has been haunted by the sins of its former board members.

Apart from these two, Africa Selection was represented by former Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala’s lawyer, Marén de Klerk, Angolan-based South African accountant Johannes Augustinus Breed and South African economist Adriaan Jacobus Louw.

It has been reported by The Namibian that African Selection Namibia was initially majority-owned by Adriaan Jacobus Louw, with a 62 percent stake. Other shareholders were De Klerk’s Celax Investments Number One (33 percent) and Angolan-based African Selection Trust (5 percent).

De Klerk who was wanted by the Anti-Corruption Commission for his links to N$90 million paid out in dubious transactions from Fishcor, resigned as a director of Seaflower and African Selection Fishing on January 15 this year.

Africa Selection Trust operates as a discretionary trust, meaning the beneficiaries are unknown.

“We had absolutely nothing to do with the Fishrot scandal and this is why we have requested an independent forensic report. The fact that there were Fishrot accused people on our board does not make us guilty of anything,” Burger said.