It is truly becoming bizarrer and bizarrer down at the Fisheries Branch on the Foreshore. The Fisheries Minister has now confirmed that she is investigating apparent fraud and corruption at the branch amounting to R1billion and going back to 1999!
Talk about Tantrum Tina truly taking us back to the previous century! This is just utter lunacy. And to add to the lunacy are the slanderous and defamatory rants of some Western Cape-based organisation called the Black Business Chamber. It has been stated that this Black Business Council (in the Apartheid days we had the Boerebond; so now I guess in this colour-mad South Africa, the BBC(!!) is the equivalent?). Well, the BBC issued a shocker of a press statement alleging massive corruption by Smit Amandla and of course the Fisheries Branch and its predecessor, Marine and Coastal Management, when previous vessel management tenders were allocated to Smit.
It has been reported by Business Report that the BBC stood to benefit financially from the tainted R800 million Sekunjalo tender.
Pieter van Dalen of the DA has advised that when he met with the Fisheries Minister recently she stated that she had "conclusive evidence" that Smit Amandla (and/or its predecessor) was guilty of corruption, fronting and overcharging. When he requested to see this "conclusive evidence" she directed him to her last remaining special adviser. When van Dalen contacted Joemat-Pettersson's adviser, he stated in writing that "I have discussed this with Minister; she does not have any documents on Pentow Marine and what she indicated at the Portfolio Committee is all that is available. I will advise if this situation changes at all."
Is this Minister just lying? We have little doubt about this. As we have previously stated, if the previous allocation of the tenders to Smit Marine or its predecessor were tainted by corruption, fronting or overcharging, why was this not picked up by the Auditor-General? The Minister has also indicated that she is investigating corruption in the fisheries branch dating back to 1999. We simply cannot understand the logic behind this. When Valli Moosa was appointed as the Minister in charge of fisheries back in June 1999, he immediately commenced an investigation into administrative misconduct and corruption. This report remains publicly available on the internet. The Minister should have first done a Google search before wasting more of our tax rands on personal vendettas (but of course one must also know what one is searching for). Minister, read the report here.
However, the Minister's destructive conduct and repeated threats of investigations into her "corrupt" staff at the Fisheries Branch is simply destroying what morale is left. A number of staff have indicated to us that they are simply surviving by doing as little possible, keeping their heads down, applying for posts in the other departments or counting down the days to retirement.
We are all eagerly awaiting the publication next week of the Public Protector's report into the Sekunjalo tender scandal that has left South Africa's waters unpatrolled for months and our fisheries research in turmoil.
PS. The Minister has confirmed in Parliament (Answer to Question 181) that she only expects the fishery patrol vessels to take to sea in October as the Navy and DAFF are currently trying to recruit personnel to operate the vessels and they must then be trained. If they are still trying to recruit personnel (err, what have they been doing since March?), there is no hope in hell that these vessels would be put to sea by the time the 12 month Naval agreement terminates in March 2013. Then what? The Minister does not have the slightest clue as she has also admitted that there are no plans to put the vessel management contract out to tender again. And what damage has been caused to these vessels and their sophisticated engines as they continue to bob about in Simonstown? Will these vessels ever be used again? Will we ever see the state-of-the-art research vessels undertake another research cruise or will the fishing industry have to this as well?
What a disaster. Did this Minister not confirm in April that the vessels would only remain quayside in Simonstown for 2 weeks as the Navy took over?