WALVIS BAY – Close to a 100 Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) staff on Wednesday demanded the urgent intervention of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, to ‘properly restore’ the affairs of the FOA.
The observers who staged a peaceful demonstration at Walvis Bay also demanded the removal of chief executive officer (CEO), Hafeni Mungungu.
The CEO’s position actually became vacant earlier this year after Mungungu’s five-year term came to an end. However, New Era learned that Mungungu is only acting as CEO as a search for a new CEO for the troubled FOA continues.
The unhappy observers charged that decisions taken are not being implemented and that there is no improvement in the organisation’s affairs. They also requested the minister to speed up the appointment of new board members or re-appoint the incumbent board as decisions cannot be taken without the board and places the observers in a very difficult position.
Speaking on behalf of the observers, Babopya Mutumbulwa said the outstanding salary increment and the delay in the salary structure is just the tip of the iceberg. “Items such as the housing subsidy and discomfort allowance have still not been implemented since we reached consensus in 2012. We are still not being paid for Sundays and public holidays as well,” he said.
“Why is it that we have to demonstrate and beg every year for our increment? Why can it not be an annual decision taken like adults? We really feel like stepchildren left on the pavement to rot,” he said.
The disgruntled staff say that change is needed urgently at the FOA. The petition was received by the human resources officer of the FOA, Willie Everson, who acknowledged the issues raised by the observers. “These are burning issues and we are appealing to our minister to look into the FOA urgently. The situation needs to change as we cannot continue to operate in this manner,” Everson said.
During an interview earlier this year with the minister it was revealed that 89 per cent of the FOA’s funds go towards salaries that are reasonably high. Esau during the interview said that he only recently became aware that there are certain issues that have to be addressed such as the salary scale and overtime. “One has to know that these benefits cannot also be calculated as salaries. In other instances people also claim overtime while they are only on standby. These are all issues that we should look into in order for the FOA to operate smoothly,” Esau told New Era earlier this year.
The FOA provides fisheries observer personnel to accompany fishing vessels to sea to observe and record data on marine resources harvesting, the collection and recording of biological data on harvested species, and to collect samples of the harvested marine species. It was established in 2002 to contribute towards the sustainable utilisation of marine resources within Namibian and international waters by providing an efficient and transparent service to all stakeholders through actively monitoring compliance with marine legislation and the collection of relevant and reliable scientific data. This is done through the placement of observers on vessels to ensure sustainable harvesting of Namibia’s marine resources.
By Eveline de Klerk