- Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara has revealed yesterday that Namibian and South African fishing companies have been fishing illegally in occupied Western Sahara, for the past year.
According to an announcement made yesterday on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Television evening news programme 'African Views' by chairman of Committee, Ronny Hansen, a research by his organisation has uncovered that Namibian-South African fishing company, Walvis Bay based Etosha Fishing Corp (Pty) Ltd, has been actively fishing in WS for a year now.
"Through their involvement with Moroccan occupying power in Western Sahara, these South African and Namibian business interests are actively supporting occupation of last colony in Africa," Mr Hansen said.
He added that, "their involvement helps both motivate and finance presence of Moroccan military troops and illegal transfer of Moroccan civilian settlers to Western Sahara. This has to stop."
Not many years ago, Namibia was occupied by neighbouring South Africa. At the time, Security Council imposed legal sanctions on foreign investments and trade in occupied Namibia.
Liberated Namibia and South Africa are today two of strongest supporters of Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic (SADR), which is mainly under illegal Moroccan occupation.
The two neighbours have full diplomatic relations with Sahrawi republic, and strongly support Sahrawi people's right to self-determination and independence in United Nations and African Union.
But some Namibian and South African business interests seemingly have other interests, strongly at odds with positions of their respective governments.
Etosha Fishing Corp (Pty) Ltd has reportedly moved into occupied Western Sahara, without having consulted Namibian or Western Saharan authorities.
"We have been fishing there for one year now. I have just sent my people up there, and we are now starting to ship fish to Namibia," managing director of Etosha, Phillip Conradie was quoted as saying, earlier this week.
Mr Conradie is said to have confirmed that their two vessels Morgenstern and Iowna are currently in Western Saharan waters under a Moroccan licence. The vessels are reportedly registered on Caribbean island state St. Kitts and Nevis, which also recognises Western Sahara republic.
According to him, since fishing started in WS a year ago, their catches have been exported to canners "all over world". However authorities have decided as of now to freeze the fish and ship it to Namibian market.
Etosha's main partner for freezing of catches is Moroccan fish processing company Dipromer. In addition, Etosha rents other smaller freezing facilities around in Dakhla.
Dipromer is said to also hold Etosha's fishing licence, through their joint venture. The licence is for 40.000 tonnes of fish a year, and permits fishing of sardines and sardinella, according to Mr Conradie.
The two vessels reportedly have Namibian and South African personnel and captain. Mr Conradie has stated that the licence with Moroccan fisheries ministry obliges Etosha to employ three Moroccans on each vessel.
"We are monitoring situation in Western Sahara, but are not following it very closely", Mr Conradie told Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
He added that Etosha management has not been in contact with Namibian authorities over this involvement. Reports show that company is 45% percent owned by Oceana Group Ltd South Africa.
A 2002 legal opinion by UN affirms that dealings in Western Sahara can only be considered to be in accordance with international law if it is to the benefit of, and in interest of local population.
A group of Sahrawis, indigenous population of Western Sahara, last week reportedly protested foreign and Moroccan fishing industry in Dakhla.
Nine people were injured after Moroccan police intervened, according to committee against torture in Dakhla.
Reports indicate that foreign fishing industry in occupied Western Sahara gives job opportunities for Moroccan settlers who have been illegally moved into country by Morocco.
According to Dutch-Portuguese international jurist Pedro Pinto Leite, Namibia bears special legal and historical responsibility to make sure their companies are not involved in Western Sahara.
"Legal justification of Namibia's so-called Decree No. 1, enacted by UN Council for Namibia for protection of natural resources of that territory, applies equally to condemnation of current plundering of resources of Western Sahara," Mr Pinto Leite said.
He last year co-edited book "International Law and the Question of Western Sahara", in which scholars of international law from a large number of countries contributed.
"Passivity of Security Council in this matter is due to obstruction by France and lack of political will of some of its other members, not to absence of legal arguments. It will be interesting to see whether Namibia will remember its own history, and either take their own companies to court or in any other way oblige them to follow international law in this matter", Mr Pinto Leite said.
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