Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Minister of DEA makes startling admissions

In November 2010, the DA addressed correspondence to the Minister of Environmental Affairs on the concerns raised by Feike and others regarding the blatant illegal conduct of Raggy Charters - an illegal Boat Based Whale Watching operator in the PE area - that was provisionally allocated a BBWW permit despite an evidence bank of illegal conduct and the fact that the entity's black empowerment partner was a senior employee of SANPARKS which is not only part of the department of environmental affairs (DEA) but also in charge of compliance and enforcement in the area in which Raggy Charters operates (illegally) as a BBWW operator.

On 31 January 2011, the Minister of DEA, Ms Molewa, responded to the DA letter and made some profoundly amazing admissions that perhaps confirms the extent to which DEA is willing to go to "protect" Raggy Charters and also indicates the amateurish legal advice that is provided to the Minister.

Although DEA initially flatly denied that a conflict could exist, the Minister confirms in her reply to the DA (31 January 2011) that they now agree that there is a conflict but Raggy Charters was allowed to amend its ownership profile and the Minister states that she considers the matter "closed". Unfortunately for the Minister, her admission that Raggy Charters was allowed to change its ownership profile after the application closure deadline is fatal to the legality of the application and appeals processes at least in the PE region. If Raggy Charters is allowed to amend or fix what is now accepted by the Minister as a material defect or "application killer", then all other applicants must be allowed the same opportunity to attend to any other material defects. There is substantial case law about how such processes must be dealt with and what can and cant be done after application deadlines.

Minister, your legal advisers have shot you in the proverbial foot at least twice with this admission alone! But the Minister is then encouraged to re-load and prepare to pull the trigger again!

The Minister then confirms that despite the avalanche of clear and unequivocal illegal activity by Raggy Charters, her department could simply not find any reason to commence with any investigation or impose any sanction. She confirms further that Raggy Charters does not even advertise illegal BBWW on its website! Does the Minister and her minions not realise that before we make the allegation we first gather the evidence? So why do we have website printouts with date stamps proving that Raggy Charters advertises illegally that it BBWW? And why did her "investigators" not contact Feike or any person in the industry to test our allegations or require us to provide affidavits?

For example, Raggy Charters advertised on 7 October 2010 on a readily accessible advertisement page that "Raggy Charters offers a boat-based whale watching in Algoa Bay. Join them for a chance of seeing Humpback, Southern Right, Bryde's and Killer whales." That is a blatant admission of illegal BBWW and ought to render their application defective under DEA's own policy and regulations. PS Minister: Your officials could have warned Raggy Charters to remove the admissions of illegal BBWW from their website, but unfortunately we have print-outs of the website showing these illegal admissions and there are numerous other sites on which Raggy Charters advertised and continues to advertise their illegal operations that cant be "erased".

The most reasonable inference is that Raggy Charters is on the DEA's "protected species" list.

So, Madam Minister why are you and your department so desperate to shield Raggy Charters from sanction that you even admit to unlawful acts in writing? Clearly there are reasons for the protection being laid on. Let us give the Minister and her officials the benefit of doubt and put this all down to utter incompetence; even laziness to do their jobs.

And so, if that is the case we will simply have to get a court of law to once again force these public servants to respect the rule of law and act legally and accountably. The Minister's letter of 31 January 2011 is of great assistance and we thank her for the candid admissions.

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