On Sunday 31 October Minister Buyelwa Sonjica was replaced by Ms Edna Molewa as Minister of Environmental Affairs. Ms Molewa inherits a department mired in controversy and in need of urgent and efficient leadership.
For many applicants in the boat-based whale watching and white shark cage diving sectors, the hope will no doubt be that the new Minister stops the chaos and confusion that has defined the DEA's management of these two sectors to date.
It will be an inevitable consequence of the Cabinet reshuffle that the appeals in these two sectors will be delayed even further. The delay may not be all negative as we would advise appellants to lobby the Minister's office directly, impressing upon her the need to urgently correct the numerous legal and factual errors that have been made in the evaluation of applicants to date.
The Minister needs to also urgently get a handle on the reasons why openly illegal boat based whale watching operators such as Raggy Charters in the Port Elizabeth area continue to receive the "protection" they do from prosecution and sanction. It has been exposed by this blog and other media that - for example - Raggy Charters' BEE partner is a senior SANParks employee and SANParks is responsible for managing the Bird Island MPA where much of the PE boat based whale watching industry is based.