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Venaani Wants Iceland to Compensate Namibian Fishermen

The president of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), McHenry Venaani, is urging Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to reconsider a proposed renewable energy grant worth 100 million Icelandic krona (N$131 million) to the Fishrot-tainted fishing company Samherji.

He says this money should rather be channelled to the Namibian fishermen who lost their livelihoods due to the company’s alleged unethical actions.

The grant is for the company to swop its vessels’ use of fossil fuel for carbon-free ammonia.

Venaani calls on Jakobsdóttir to leverage Iceland’s reputation for ethical conduct.

“Madam prime minister, I urge you to use your moral leadership to demand that Samherji pays compensation to the thousands of Namibian fishermen who lost their jobs due to the company’s greed and malfeasance.

“I also urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that Samherji is held accountable for its actions,” he says.

Samherji has been accused of paying substantial bribes to gain an unfair advantage in the Namibian fishing sector between 2012 and 2019, which has caused widespread devastation to local communities and left hundreds of fishermen jobless.

The company is one of the main players in the Fishrot fraud and corruption scandal and allegedly paid bribes to former parliamentarians Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau to obtain fishing quotas in Namibia.

The parliamentarians and other officials are currently in custody, while the affected fishermen were left without work and are languishing in poverty after Samherji abruptly ceased operations in Namibia.

In a letter dated 10 November, which The Namibian has seen, Venaani has expressed deep concern over the reported government plan to subsidise Samherji.

Venaani implored Jakobsdóttir to use her influence to demand reparations from Samherji.

“The impact of this crisis has been further accentuated by the recent global pandemic, leaving families and communities grappling with tremendous hardship. I bring this appeal to your discernment and moral leadership.

“It is indeed an opportunity to set an example and take a strong stand against corruption and exploitation. Please do not provide refuge to such entities through your benevolent acts of assistance,” Venaani wrote.

Attempts to obtain comment from Jakobsdóttir were not successful. Iceland is currently faced with a state of emergency due to a possible volcanic eruption 40km south-west of its capital, Reykjavik.

In September Windhoek-based lawyer Norman Tjombe took Samherji’s subsidiary Esja Investments to court in an attempt to obtain compensation for its former employees.

In 2021, ArcticNam was fined $1,8 million to compensate 23 Namibian fishermen who were retrenched in 2018 by the Office of the Labour Commissioner at Walvis Bay.

This money is yet to be paid.

Esja Investments was appointed as management company in terms of an agreement between ArcticNam Fishing and a Namibian group of fishing quota beneficiaries, including Sinco Fishing, Epango Fishing and Yukor.

Source : Namibian