Friday, May 4, 2012

The Minister of Fisheries: An Embarrassment of Epic Proportions

This is a statement issued by SMIT Amandla this afternoon after the Minister of Fisheries' exceptionally embarrassing and child-like behavior at the Cape Town Press Club this morning. The Minister refused to address the Press Club while the DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Fisheries was present. 

The Minister clearly has no regard for democracy and accountability. Here is the SMIT Amandla statement and we look forward to the Minister being forced to grovel in public and apologise for her increasingly looney, damaging and embarrassing statements. 

Statement: We note with dismay the comments made by Minister Tina-Joemat Petterssen of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries today at the Cape Town Press Club concerning SMIT Amandla Marine (Pty) Ltd and its employees. We wish to place on record the following: Repeated public allegations of corruption made by the Minister and the Director General of DAFF against our company dating back to 2005 remain untested and completely unfounded. We categorically deny that SMIT Amandla Marine has been involved in corrupt practices. We have continued to offer our support and co-operation with respect to any inquiry or investigation but to date, have had no response to correspondence on this matter since the allegations were first made in March 2012. This includes the allegation by DAFF that SMIT had a relationship with a non-existant company called Dudula Fishing. With respect to the Minister’s announcement this morning that her Department entered into a service level agreement with the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association to provide specialist personnel to support the SA Navy’s efforts to proceed safely to sea with the research vessel ‘Africana’, we would like to note as follows: 
o    SADSTIA formally approached SMIT Amandla Marine on the 12th of April to provide it with personnel with specific and recent experience of the operations of the ‘Africana’ for a defined period of 60 days. Personnel were deployed to Simonstown on 16th of April, where they are working under the command of the SA Navy in an effort to ensure that this vessel will proceed safely to sea and that skills transfer takes place.o    The fact that our company is now being accused of acting in bad faith by the Minister is counter-productive to the efforts of all parties involved including DAFF itself, the SA Navy, SADSTIA and our employees working on the ‘Africana’. As a black empowered company in a highly specialised sector, supporting the State’s maritime interests is a priority and our organisation has a successful track record in South Africa of professional service delivery to a number of Government Departments – including, most recently, support to the Department of Environmental Affairs during the ‘S.A. Agulhas II’ newbuild project in Finland and the current management and manning of this state of the art vessel which was welcomed in Cape Town yesterday. It is regrettable that following SMIT Amandla Marine’s successful legal challenge with respect to the Vessel Management contract awarded to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium by DAFF in November 2011, the Minister deliberately and repeatedly chooses to attack SMIT Amandla Marine’s professional reputation, credibility and intentions. We will thus be requesting the intervention of both the Public Protector as well as our legal team in order to resolve the current impasse.
Finally, the fact that SMIT continues to operate and manage the Africana under the instructions of the SA Deep Sea Trawl Industry Association only serves to emphasise the irrelevance and dysfunctionality of the DAFF and its Minister. 

Essentially, there is now almost no purpose or function being served by this Minister and her Department (other than being a destructive force). The patrol vessels remain in port despite repeated assurances that were given by DAFF and its Minister that these vessels would all be deployed by mid April at the latest. And we continue to await for a copy of that illusive Service Level Agreement between the Navy and DAFF that was apparently signed on 13 April 2012. 

We must demand the removal of this Minister as she is without doubt the most egregious threat to viability of South Africa's fishing industry. 

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