By Sakeus Iikela
SWAPO parliamentarians yesterday blocked discussion of the legitimacy of procedures and requirements to apply for fishing rights.
A heated debate broke out in the National Assembly yesterday shortly after Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member Nico Smit tabled a motion to question the legality of the requirement to compel fishing rights applicants to use a proprietary limited company or Pty (Ltd) instead of a close corporation, as was the case in the past.
Smit wanted minister Bernhard Esau to explain why the fisheries ministry was holding consultations around requirements when it has already gazetted the requirements.
In his motion, Smit said the Pty (Ltd) requirement was "completely off the mark", and excluded everybody who should really benefit from fishing quotas.
Another requirement unveiled last month by the ministry was that applicants must have access to a fishing vessel.
Esau, however, objected to the motion, saying there was no need for policymakers to discuss the set requirements because the ministry had already started consultations to inform people how to apply for the fishing rights.
Esau further defended the requirements, saying that they were in line with the law.
The minister, however, claimed that the Pty (Ltd) requirement was not meant to exclude less privileged people from accessing fishing rights, but to protect them from exploitation by "elites in fishing rights, and make sure they benefit".
Despite Smit's claim that the new requirement would not benefit "women, youth, people living with disabilities and those classified as less privileged", Swapo members, including attorney general Albert Kawana, justice minister Sacky Shanghala and land reform minister Utoni Nujoma, objected to the motion, saying the PDM was politicising the discussion.
Kawana said the PDM could not claim to represent the poor because the party had only five parliamentarians. He added that opposition parties were only allowed to speak when the ruling party dictates, because they were in the minority.
"We were not even supposed to be discussing this. The minister said he will consult and present a report on the outcome in parliament.
"Now, for the PDM to come and represent the views of our people, when they are only five [...], and they want to speak on behalf of this nation," Kawana said, adding that the PDM should rather support the proposed new equitable economic empowerment framework (Neeef) policy.
Swanu MP Usutuaije Maamberua, however, condemned Kawana's claim that smaller parties had no right to represent the views of the public.
"We are elected here as equal members. Don't insult our Constitution and our laws," he stressed.
Shanghala, on the other hand, asked Maamberua whether he had a breathalyser, suggesting the Swanu parliamentarian was drunk.
Deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Loide Kasingo, who chaired proceedings, also chimed in to supported the ruling party positions.
The Namibian reported last month that the decision to change the requirements has angered some Namibians, including Namibia's biggest fishing association, which said it was not consulted on the matter.
It was also reported that the new requirements divided opinion among industry players as some believe the latest move would only benefit the well off.
The fisheries ministry selects a list of companies that can qualify to be fishing rights holders for seven years.
It was also reported that many Swapo parliamentarians have shares in one or more fishing companies.