Monday, November 29, 2010

Fisheries Mired in Chaos and Controversy

We had hoped (and prayed to gods) that with the official appointment of Tina Joemat-Pettersson as Minister of Fisheries in April this year and the removal of Monde Mayekiso as head of fisheries management, the fisheries branch (formerly MCM) would undergo a dramatic recovery as was promised by the Minister.

The events of just the past month (let alone the creeping inaction and failures since April) have confirmed that the only change was the name of the branch from MCM to fisheries. Mismanagement, allegations of corruption and gross incompetence have come to define the fisheries branch. In addition, the lack of professional and knowledgeable staff at the fisheries branch has meant that it has effectively been caught sleeping on numerous occasions. Its Minister failed to play any leadership role at the Second Benguela Current Commission meeting which is all about effective regional fisheries management; instead the Minister of Environmental Affairs and her staff took the reins. Both Angola and Namibia are led by their respective fisheries ministers. Earlier, the Environmental Affairs department humiliated the fisheries branch by unilaterally deciding to de-list abalone from CITES Appendix II. DAFF did not even know about the de-listing until Feike and TRAFFIC notified it about the de-listing! Then it did nothing.

In June, when before the Parliamentary Committee on Fisheries, the Minister stated that she was not responsible for fishing quotas and had to be embarrassingly reminded by a member of staff that in fact she was! The list is ongoing. Both comical and a sad indictment on how we tolerate such mind-boggling incompetence from Ministers and their high earning yet unsuitable staff.

And now - within the space of a month - we have admissions and contradictions about how a "connected" woman who lives in a wendy house and works in a fish shop was helped by the ANC fishing desk to get a 2 ton lobster quota despite not having any of the required resources to catch the fish and we have massive allegations about widespread nepotism and possible corruption regarding the compilation of interim lobster quota lists. The Department's admission that it in fact outsourced the allocation of these quotas to organisations such as Masifundise and Coastal Links is simply mind-boggling. The admission confirms that it acted illegally as the department has no legal authority to "out-source" the allocation of these quotas. Even more confirmation of the incompetence that surrounds us.

Some one help us in 2011.

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