Esau Relative Chairs Fishcor

FISHERIES minister Bernard Esau allegedly ignored regulations when he handpicked a relative to head the board of a State-owned company, which he gave a 10 000-metric tonne fishing quota – again in contravention of the law.

The horse mackerel quota was quickly sold for about N$30 million by James Hatuikulipi – a cousin of Esau’s son-in-law – who was handpicked as the chairperson of the Luumlderitz-based Fishcor despite the law stating that such a person should be appointed by fellow directors.

The Fishcor Act of 1991 states that, “the directors shall appoint one of their numbers as chairperson of the board, who shall preside at all meetings of the board at which he or she is present and who in the event of an equality of votes on any matter shall have a casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote”. By law Fishcor, which is in an apparent perennial state of bankruptcy, should not qualify for a horse mackerel quota because it has hake fishing rights, while the Marine Resources Act of 2000 does not give the minister powers to give fishing quotas as he pleases but only to the holders of specific rights for specific species.

Fishcor’s subsidiaries, Seaflower Whitefish and Seaflower Lobsters, have struggled for many years to establish themselves as serious players in the fishing industry.

Hatuikulipi confirmed that he was appointed by Esau but defended his integrity. “Ask the minister whether I was appointed unprocedurally or not. He appointed me,” said Hatuikulipi.

“I am a very professional man. I am very competent too. I know a lot of people whom I do business with. They do not have to be my family.

Even you could be my family, so please judge me by my competence and not by who I know,” he said.

The directors of Fishcor are Ohangwena governor Usko Nghaamwa, Khomas governor Laura Mcleod-Katjirua, fisheries and marine resources permanent secretary Ulitala Hiveluah, and Ndaendamwenyo Sheya, V Groenewaldt and B Kangumu. The Namibian understands that othe Fishcor directors were unaware of how Hatuikulipi became the chairman of the parastatal.

Nghaamwa told The Namibian yesterday that a letter from minister Esau informed him of Hatuikulipi’s appointment as chairperson.

“I do not have a clear picture of his appointment. There was no board meeting about it although I was told there would be one,” said Nghaamwa.

McLeod-Katjirua and Sheya yesterday both also confirmed that Hatuikulipi was appointed by the minister but they couldn’t say when the appointment was made.

“I cannot talk about his appointment. He was appointed by the minister in his own personal capacity. I can only talk about my appointment, otherwise speak to those who gave you the information for more information,” said Sheya.The Namibian also understands that Hatuikulipi sold the quota to two companies – Esja Fishing and Erongo Seafoods – that are run by some of his friends. The two companies carry out the actual catching of fish.

Hatuikulipi, however, refused to comment on the 10 000 metric tonne horse mackerel quota allocated to Fishcor, referring all questions to the acting chief executive officer, Mike Nghipunya, who declined to give details, saying they will have a press conference tomorrow in Luumlderitz. Esja Fishing managing director Johannes Stefansson confirmed buying 5 000 metric tonne of quota from Fishcor but would not say for how much. Stefansson said his company came on board in 2012 when the minister decided on new fishing rights. Erongo Seafoods managing director Callie Jacobs refused to comment on acquiring a part of the Fishcor horse mackerel quota.

Both Hatuikulipi’s appointment and the allocation of the quota to Fishcor come amid an outcry in the fishing industry about Esau’s alleged abuse of his ministerial position when deciding on the allocation of fishing rights and quotas.

Some companies and individuals have even accused Esau of favouring competitors and destroying jobs in the industry.

Esau refused to explain to The Namibian how he decides on allocating quotas, despite defending his actions in a local weekly newspaper that he has the powers to make such decisions.

Last year, Esau made a similar decision when he gave Etale Fishing a 12 000 metric tonne horse mackerel quota despite the fact that the company did not have rights or facilities to catch and process horse mackerel.

Etale, at the time, retrenching all staff and closing down, was in the hake business. However, Etale accepted the quota and sold it for about N$40 million to Emeritus, an old player in the horse mackerel industry.

Source : The Namibian