On Friday, 26 February 2021, the Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group in an official statement, expressed its disappointment at what it terms sensational and opportunistic reporting following a feature article in a local newspaper implying that quota granted by Cabinet more than 25 years ago, in response to the company’s plea to support its struggling fisheries operation, was indeed not all above board.
Sven Thieme, Executive Chairman of the O&L Group says: “I am not sure what to make of this. Not only was it a surprise when official O&L correspondence dating back to 1996 before I had taken over the Group, suddenly emerged, together with questions implying that the O&L Groups relationship with Government was somehow sinister, but to add insult to injury, today we learned that in fact a similar story had been published by the same newspaper in 2004.”
Thieme continues: “Whether we had forgotten about the article of 2004 or whether we had dismissed it as baseless, I cannot recall, but I can confirm that before yesterday, the 25th of February 2021, when the journalist brought these letters to my attention, I nor anyone that I know of in the business, had knowledge of their existence. And while the content of the letters just confirm Mr. List’s absolute determination to overcome struggles faced by business, in order to save jobs, what is concerning is the manner in which these letters are now used without base to imply some sort of untoward behaviour. This is despicable and cannot be condoned.”
Prior to the discovery of the 2004 article, The O&L Group Leadership on Thursday 25 February 2021, issued the following statement to its internal stakeholders, the 6 000 employees of the O&L Group, as follows:
“By now, our suspicion that an enquiry by The Namibian newspaper today (Thursday, 25 February 2021) was aimed at implicating the O&L Group in the stench surrounding the allocation of quotas in the fishing industry, have indeed materialised, as was suspected when that call came. Therefore, following the sensationalistic headline of The Namibian of 26 February 2021: ‘Inside O&L’s farm-for-fish deal’, after this newspaper’s sudden discovery of letters dating back to 1996, we herewith wish to share our Executive Chairman’s response to the journalist, verbatim, so that you too may be equipped with the facts.”
The O&L Group Executive Chairman, Sven Thieme’s response to The Namibian’s journalist (Shinovene Immanuel), stated: “Thanks for sharing those letters Shinoveni, this came as quite a surprise to me as I had never seen or heard of this before. However, please see my comments below:
I was not aware of this matter, however, having now for the first time familiarised myself with the documentation, it would seem this was a genuine and transparent plea to government to support a struggling 100% Namibian operation to sustain jobs for many Namibians. As partners in development, sharing a common goal of advancing the country, it would seem that a donation of several farms in support of the land reform programme was made in good faith and through formal and transparent processes.
We all know that a successful economy requires strong partnerships between Government and the Private Sector. The O&L Group prides itself in having been such a business which for many years has shared a common vision of creating a better Namibia. I would therefore conclude that the fact that our fisheries operation has withstood various ups and downs, and today provides 1,200 Namibians and their families with a livelihood through our fisheries operation, is testimony to the value of collaboration by government and the private sector. In fact, it was interesting to see that even so far back, it was necessary to secure a base load of quota of a specific volume in order to run a sustainable fishing operation. This is still the case today and one of the reasons why reform of the fishing quota allocation system is required.
Those who knew Mr List and his passion for Namibia and her people, will know that donating the farms to government at that time was in good faith, not for personal gain or in the hands of any individuals, but towards government in sustaining a 100% Namibian business, and in realising his personal passion of enhancing the lives of Namibians.
We pride ourselves in our value based culture by which we bring the O&L purpose of “Creating a Future, Enhancing Life” to life – and will continue to pursue this by engaging our stakeholders in a transparent and equitable manner, and so doing, further contributing to the socio economic wellbeing and upliftment of our nation. It remains the imperative of government to create a conducive business environment, and that of the private sector to run sustainable businesses that enhance life for all their stakeholders, inclusive of their employees, the beneficiaries of tax revenue and the like. The O&L Group remains committed to continue playing its part in creating new realities for all Namibians. “
The O&L Group further stated in its communication to its employees and other stakeholders, that the donation of farms to Government is a matter of public knowledge, without any dubious or sinister gains to any individuals, but in support of the national resettlement programme. “It is also public knowledge that the O&L Group has and continues to secure its quota in a transparent and equitable manner, as was evidenced by the official letters written to the President in his official capacity. Therefore, let us not allow any parties with ulterior motives to create any doubt in our firm belief of ‘Doing The Right Things Right’, as we have always done. Let us equip ourselves and speak the truth, to protect our business, and in fact our country, as this is our right and duty in creating a better future for everyone.”