Monday, February 7, 2011

The DAFF gets Curiouser and Curiouser

A number of right holders in the abalone fishery report of being harassed and threatened with arrest and the confiscation of their catches by fishery control officers because their vessels do not have names!

Feike has communicated to the Department of Fisheries (or DAFFt) that there is no law in this great country of ours that requires vessels to have a name. What the applicable regulations promulgated by the Department of Transport require is that every fishing vessel have a registration number.

What is becoming abundantly clear is that either due to the incredibly incompetent and weak leadership at the DAFFt or an explicit mandate to unlawfully harass right holders (probably both), DAFFt's compliance officers and senior managers in particular are increasingly exposing themselves to a decision similar to that of the important precedent set by the the High Court in Coetzee v National Commissioner of Police and Others.

The Coetzee judgement will undoubtedly be used increasingly as more and more civil servants (such as a our reckless and malicious fishery control officers) believe they can act as they wish and cause untold harm, reputational damage and financial harm without consequence. In the Coetzee judgement, Justice du Plessis (having found the arrest of the applicant unlawful) then proceeded to rule on the payment of costs as follows:

"1. The following persons shall pay the costs of the applicant as well as the costs of the first and second respondent de bonis propriis on the scale of attorney and own client:
1.1 the station commander of Pretoria West Police Station: Senior Superintendent Moodley;
1.2 Superintendent Klopper of the Pretoria West Police Station;
1.3 Captain Nhlazo of the Pretoria West Police Station;
1.4 Inspector Dulebu of the Pretoria West Police Station;
1.5 Tshwane Metro Police Constable Frans Moosa Sivayi.

2. In the event, and only in the event of all execution steps having been taken, finalised and exhausted against the abovementioned officials, the first and second respondents shall be ordered to pay any further outstanding costs of the applicant on a scale of attorney and own client."

Essentially this order meant that all the legal costs incurred by both the applicant and respondents had to be paid from the pockets of the errant civil servants named in the order. They would have to pay the hundreds of thousands of rands in legal fees from their own salaries and if necessary by sequestrating their personal estates. And if any legal costs remained after every possible asset of these civil servants was auctioned off, then only would the National Commissioner and the Minister of Police be liable for the balance of costs.

Feike has warned the DAFF, and particularly the directors of compliance and the chief director of compliance, as well as those fishery control officers who appear to be less than able to understand the law, that should they arrest or detain any right holder on spurious grounds (such as not having a vessel name), we will not hesitate to approach a court of law for similar relief and we will not hesitate to sequestrate the estates of any fishery control officer or their bosses in order to ensure that civil servants understand what their duties and functions are.

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