Sunday, April 17, 2011

Minister of DEA confirms her Support for Illegality

On Thursday 14 April 2011, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism confirmed her department's support for illegal and reckless behavior by marine tour operators when she confirmed a boat based whale watching permit for the illegal BBWW operator, Raggy Charters.

The Minister allocated Raggy Charters a BBWW permit for the PE area despite a plethora of illegal conduct and violations of the BBWW Regulations and Policy which ought to have disqualified the application by Raggy Charters.

Raggy Charters has long advertised its illegal BBWW and dolphin watching business which was repeatedly brought to the attention of the Minister. This was ignored and instead it became clear that Raggy Charters was told to amend its website and stop advertising its illegal BBWW services but it continued providing illegal BBWW services via a host of alternative advertising channels. When Raggy Charters made application for a BBWW permit, its black partner was a senior employee at SANParks. In terms of the BBWW regulations and policy this ought to have resulted in the exclusion of the application as the conflict constituted a material defect. Instead, the Minister allowed Raggy Charters to secretly change its black partner and correct the material defect in violation of South African law. And most recently, the Minister sat quietly and buried her head in the sand of Hobie beach when Raggy Charters admitted to chumming illegally within 200m of a Hobie Beach which then resulted in the closure of the beach due to the prevalence of sharks. This illegal conduct ought to have caused the immediate exclusion of Raggy Charters' application as its owner admitted to the media that he was chumming without a permit for seabirds. This admission amounts to at least three criminal offences which carry penalties of up to R5 million and imprisonment of up to 10 years... but the Minister of DEA who is charged with enforcing these laws, elected to ignore these violations.

So how does an openly illegal operator still get the sole permit to conduct BBWW in PE? How is it that Raggy Charters can confidently make admissions which amount to multiple criminal offences knowing that it will not affect its BBWW permit application?

Would any other operator be able to openly advertise that it is an illegal BBWW operator? Would any other operator be able to openly admit to the media that it chums for seabirds (and sharks) without any permit within 200m of a swimming beach without suffering the serious consequences provided for under various laws? Was any other operator allowed to secretly amend its application and change its ownership profile? No.

Feike has lodged a formal complaint with the Public Protector (PP) about the preferential and illegal conduct shown by the Minister and her department to Raggy Charters and its owner Lloyd Edwards. We are requesting the PP to investigate why such serious violations have been ignored by the Minister and her department.

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