Namibian fishermen call for justice

Niël Terblanché

A group of Namibian fishing industry workers have come forward with personal testimonies about the profound impact the notorious Fishrot corruption scandal has had on their lives.

The Fishrot corruption scandal, which came to light following investigations into illicit dealings between several former Namibian government officials and representatives of the Icelandic fishing company Samherji, has had far-reaching consequences.

The scandal centred around the exchange of lucrative fishing quotas for payments, severely impacting local companies like Namsov Fishing Enterprises, which saw their quotas slashed or eliminated from 2014 onwards. This led to the loss of at least 1,000 jobs, leaving workers like Haimbala in dire straits.

In a heart-wrenching revelation, the accounts of the affected fishermen were detailed in a comprehensive report released by the Namibia Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), in collaboration with the British High Commission.

The report sheds light on the human cost of corruption, as thirteen workers narrate their ongoing battles to secure employment, sustain their families, and uphold a semblance of dignity in society following the scandal.

Thomas Haimbala, a former deckhand, encapsulates the despair felt by many of the fishermen.

“I want to buy things, but there’s no money. I want to get married, but there’s no money,” he said

His concerns for the future echo the anxiety and uncertainty that has become a common thread among the affected individuals.

As the legal proceedings against the implicated officials continue, the affected workers and their communities have yet to find closure or receive adequate compensation for their losses.

In response, the IPPR has called on Samherji to formally acknowledge its role in the scandal and issue a formal public apology to those impacted.

Beyond acknowledgement, the IPPR advocates for full redress to the individuals and communities devastated by the scandal, underscoring the necessity of tangible reparations.

In the report, the IPPR emphasizes the importance of giving a voice to the victims of corruption as a vital step towards achieving justice and healing.
To this end, the report proposes the establishment of an independent Namibian foundation, comprising representatives from the government, civil society, the fishing industry, and the fishermen themselves.

According to the IPPR, this body would aim to provide transparent, effective, and lasting support to the victims, equipped with the necessary resources to address the fallout of the Fishrot scandal comprehensively.

The IPPR’s initiative to document the human toll of the scandal through firsthand accounts is an effort to humanize the abstract statistics often associated with corruption cases.

As the organization plans to extend its research to fully grasp the human rights and economic implications of Fishrot, there is a hopeful prospect for a more informed and empathetic approach to addressing the consequences of corruption in Namibia.

The call for an apology from Samherji and the establishment of a dedicated foundation reflects a broader demand for accountability, transparency, and restitution in the aftermath of corruption scandals.

While ordinary Namibians still struggle with the repercussions of Fishrot, the voices of affected workers like Haimbala serve as a distressing reminder of the urgent need for justice and systemic reform in the face of corruption’s devastating impact.

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