Namibia gets new fisheries minister in wake of Fishrot scandal

Published on
April 28, 2021

Namibian President Hage Geingob has appointed Derek Klazen as the country's new fisheries and marine resources minister in a cabinet reshuffle announced on 22 April.

The new fisheries minister has been promoted from his former position of deputy minister of urban and rural development to replace Albert Kawana, who has become the new minister of home affairs.

Klazen becomes the third fisheries minister since the 2019 re-election of President Geingob and the resignation of Bernhard Esau, who resigned after it emerged that he allegedly received bribes to give preferential treatment to Samherji – one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies – in accessing lucrative fisheries in Namibia.

Esau’s resignation paved the way for the appointment of Kawana, who went on to promise transparency in Namibia’s fisheries sector through an amendment of the country’s Fisheries and Marine Resources Act to address opacity and corruption, especially in the allocation of fishing rights.

Kawana’s tenure reportedly delayed the fast-tracking of implementing the recommendations by a panel appointed by Geingob that proposed dismantling the fishing rights system in favor of an open-bidding system. Contrary to the expectations of some of Namibia’s seafood stakeholders, Kawana failed to open up records on individuals and companies that benefited from the country’s fishing quotas since 2010 for scrutiny.

However, it was during the outgoing fisheries minister's tenure that Namibia’s hake trawl and longline fishery became the first fishery in the country and second in Africa to be certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, opening up more business opportunities for the country’s seafood products.

Kawana attributed the awarding of the MSC certification to the government’s hard work in rebuilding hake stocks, which had historically been overfished.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Klazen as Namibia’s new fisheries and marine resources minister comes days after a new report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project was released that links Geingob and top officials of the ruling party SWAPO to an alleged money-skimming scheme linked to influencing the 2019 presidential elections.

Klazen takes over at a time when Namibia’s “Fishrot” scandal remains unresolved, and more allegations are emerging on how it may have been hatched and executed by people linked to the ruling party.  

Photo courtesy of the Namibian Presidency

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