Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Tail that Wags the Dog

In November 2009 the President, Jacob Zuma, informed the South African fishing industry in Hawston that a decision was taken to appoint Tina Joemat-Pettersson as the Minister in charge of fisheries and Marine and Coastal Management. In order to formalise and effect this decision a single A4 page presidential proclamation was all that was required to confirm the institution of executive authority over fisheries management in terms of the Constitution.

Feike can now confirm that the reason why in February 2010 - 3 months after an instruction by the President - Joemat-Pettersson has still not been appointed Minister of Fisheries (despite her title to this effect) is that the senior management team responsible for the collapse of effective fisheries management in South Africa continues to undermine a decision taken by the President and confirmed by Cabinet. The trade union NEHAWU, whose members are employed by MCM, have addressed a letter to the President detailing the conniving and underhandedness of the Director-General of Water and Environmental Affairs, the former DDG of MCM, Monde Mayekiso and the acting DDG of MCM, Razeena Omar. NEHAWU's letter confirms that despite Mayekiso's sudden removal as DDG of MCM in November, he continues to cause chaos at MCM by orchestrating a campaign to frustrate the conferment of executive control to Joemat-Pettersson. NEHAWU has quite correctly demanded the removal of these officials and has even threatened court action should a draft proclamation drafted by Mayekiso et al be signed by the President.

Feike has also had sight of the draft proclamation. The draft proclamation proposes a messy and ill-informed carving up of certain powers and functions related to fisheries and coastal management. For example, it proposes that the power to issue section 28 notices under the MLRA remain with the Minister of Environmental Affairs but the power to issue permits and set TAC's/TAE's be transferred to the Minister of Fisheries. Another example concerns the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act of 2008. Mayekiso et al want to retain control over the ICM Act but fail to explain how environmental affairs can implement an Act that applies from the high water mark seaward for 12 nautical miles directly affecting fisheries management and the concept of an Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries (EAF). More importantly perhaps, the few available skills left to effectively implement this Act, such as the estuarine and marine pollution experts, are all employed by MCM and universities such as UCT. Is Mayekiso et al proposing a duplication of skills at MCM and at environmental affairs and at what cost to taxpayers... and where are these skills going to be found in duplicate? There are a number of other similar examples, which indicate that the drafters of the proclamation lack all knowledge and understanding about concepts such as EAF, integrated fisheries, estuarine and coastal management and so forth. Feike understands that a number of the country's foremost experts on fisheries management and science are unanimous in their view that the proposed splitting of functions as proposed by the draft proclamation would be a step in the wrong direction that would have significant adverse consequences and cause much international confusion and embarrassment.

It is plainly apparent that Mayekiso's lateral transfer to a non-existent deputy director-general post at a salary of more than R1 million per annum needs to be justified to treasury and the public service administration. The only way to justify the creation of an entirely new branch led by a DDG - Mayekiso - is to load it with functions and legislative mandates regardless of the costs and practicalities. And while the tail continues to wag the dog at MCM, as officials dictate the terms of failure to elected politicians, what is the lack of leadership and governance costing the Marine Living Resources Fund and the fishing industry? One need only consider the failed policies in the abalone sector; the loss of some 3500 tons of abalone to poachers at a cost of more than R3 billion to the economy in 2009 alone to understand the magnitude of the crisis at MCM.

Of greater concern is all the other rumoured but simmering crises which may reduce the abalone issue to a mere blip on the radar. What is urgently required is strong, focussed and committed political and professional leadership at MCM to immediately start salvaging this ship of fools. It is hoped that the President will act decisively and as promised that there will be a single captain in charge of MCM and that captain will be Joemat-Pettersson. To allow those officials responsible for the institutional failure that is MCM today would be a grave disservice to the more than 40000 fishworkers and crew in the industry and the more than 3000 commercial and artisinal fishing right holders.

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