THE Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources has been accused of showing a conflict of interest after going on a trip to the soccer World Cup in Brazil, allegedly paid for by a businessman over whom he has powers to award fishing quotas.
Esau was part of a delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Hage Geingob on a chartered government jet joyride to watch the final of the World Cup in Brazil in July. After the controversial trip, Esau pleaded ignorance of who had paid for the trip but businessman Desmond Amunyela, owner of Paragon Investment Holdings, a company with fishing rights, admitted chartering the jet for N$1million.
The minister had increased the fishing quotas in June but it could not be established by how much Amunyela's company had benefited.
Fishing quotas are issued at the discretion of the line minister, who decides which companies should receive fishing licences ranging from seven to 15 years.
Esau has been accused by established fishing companies of unfairly using his discretionary powers to dish out fishing rights and quotas to favoured companies and that his decisions were destroying the industry and costing hundreds of workers their jobs.
The controversial trip to the World Cup was undertaken during the weekend of 11-13 July. It was described as being extravagant and that the prime minister, and the minister of fisheries had compromised their positions.
At first it was feared that Geingob had diverted government resources to go on a luxury trip but Amunyela came to his defence.
Amunyela who is a known friend of Swapo's presidential candidate, Hage Geingob, publicly admitted being the convener of the trip, stating that he paid more than N$1 million to charter the government's Falcon jet.
Despite Amunyela's defence, some people have however criticized the conduct of the two politicians as being in contravention of Article 42 of the Namibian Constitution.
Article 42 states that “During their tenure of office as members of the Cabinet, ministers may not take up any other paid employment, engage in activities inconsistent with their positions as ministers or expose themselves to any situation which carries with it a risk of a conflict developing between their interest as minsters and their private interests.”
Speaking to The Namibian last month, Esau denied he had compromised himself with a conflict of interest position. He said he carries out his official obligations fairly.
“I have received a lot of other invitations by fishing companies to take me out of the country but I have turned them all down because I know that one day they would want to seek favours for those trips,” said Esau.
Esau also said he went on the Brazil trip as Prime Minister Geingob's guest, adding that he could not turn down the PM's invitation.
The minister pleaded ignorance about who financed the trip during a meeting in parliament last month. Although he could not say when he found out who paid, Esau accentuated that he still could not have turned down Geingob's invitation despite it being a conflict of interest.
Amunyela's company Paragon Seafood Products, a subsidiary of Paragon Investment Holdings (Pty) was awarded fishing rights and quotas by Esau, in a joint venture entity called Mack Fishing.
Mack Fishing consists of Ehika Fishing, Paragon Seafood Products, Reho Fishing and Starlite Fishing and Doros Fishing.
The joint venture, Mack Fishing received 9 152 metric tons of Horse Mackerel quotas this year, and were allocated 10 000 metric tons last year, and in 2012 12 100 metric tons were allocated to them.
Mack Fishing directors are, Amunyela, Lazarus Jacobs, Swapo youth league leader Alec Boois, musician Clive Willemse, Sinclair Andres Aspara, Stanley Katzao, Mandume Shafa Kaulinge, who is Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana's son and Rojo Edgar van Wyk.
Apart from Esau, other people listed as part of the Brazil trip included Agribank chief executive officer Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu, Law Reform and Development Commissioner, Sacky Shanghala, Swapo Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu, businessmen Amos Shiyuka, Vaino Nghipondoka, though it is not clear whether they were all on the chartered jet.
Paragon, was founded in June 2003 by business partners Jacobs and Amunyela. Esau described his relationship with Amunyela as being a professional one: “He grew up in front of me in Swakopmund, that is how I know him.”
When contacted for comment, Amunyela refused to comment on the alleged conflict of interest and instead rubbished the question.
“This is rubbish, why are you asking me about that trip. This is pure nonsense” he said before slamming down the phone.
He was however quoted in the media soon after the trip that it was privately arranged, organised and paid for by himself from his four years of 'savings' and that he had already started preparations for a trip to the next soccer World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.
By Ndanki Kahiurika The Namibian