Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Director-General Forced to Admit Abalone Failure

Facing the Select Committee on Public Accounts, the Director-General of the department of water and environmental affairs, finally admitted that Marine and Coastal Management has failed to protect abalone from rampant poaching and does not have the resources to do so. It is incredible that it takes rampant failure and a huge loss to our ecology and socio-economy before such obvious admissions are made. Feike has been stating that MCM's "compliance" strategies were not impacting on abalone poaching since at least 2006 and that South Africa was losing between 2000 and 3000 tons of abalone worth a conservative R2 billion annually to poaching.

Most recently, MCM's Deputy Director-General, Monde Mayekiso, stated on the environmental conservation programme, 50/50, that he did not believe that poaching was a crisis and that MCM had matters under control. Earlier this year, Feike, together with the ISS, published a report that looked into poaching levels in South Africa. MCM attempted to reject the findings of the report by promising "facts" to be published by a "peer review panel". More than 5 months have passed since MCM promised the publication of the peer review panel's findings. To date, MCM refuses to even answer emails regarding this panel's existence. MCM's continued deception and denials of a crisis have finally been exposed. However, no one appears to be accountable yet again for the loss of billions of rands of abalone; the loss of more than a 1000 jobs due to the closure of fishery; the loss of millions of taxpayer rands caused by mismanagement and incompetence identified by the Auditor General.

What makes matters even worse at MCM is that not only does it rely on the sale of confiscated abalone for up to 30% of its operating budget, it's a failing institution. It is currently unable to continue with research cruises (although it denies this - for now) because of a lack of funds, forcing its senior management to run around cap in hand begging for financial handouts. Its compliance budget is more than R40 million less than the budget in 2004. It is now trying to re-invent the wheel by reintroducing the green courts MCM disbanded in 2005 despite its undisputed successes against abalone poachers. MCM's insistence on listing abalone on CITES backfired amid much international embarrassment after Feike revealed that it failed to endorse a single export permit which were then being traded by poachers to launder poached abalone back in South Africa.

In 1999, the current DDG, Monde Mayekiso, was removed from his post as head of MCM for, inter alia, "a lack of general management competence at the level of the Chief Director" and specifically that Monde Mayekiso "... was not in control of activities in MCM, and that he was out of his depth as a manager. He exhibited a basic lack of insight of the enormity of the problem. The Committee (led by the previous DG of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Dr Crispian Olver) believes that Dr Mayekiso is not suitable for the position he holds." Will political expediency continue to overrule this country's desperate and urgent need to rid itself of the current excess of incompetence and failure at MCM?

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