Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Does DAFF have a DDG?

Has the Minister of Fisheries finally got around to appointing a (non-acting) Deputy Director-General of Fisheries? Feike has heard that Ms Greta Apelgren-Narkedien was appointed as the new Deputy Director-General of Fisheries with effect from yesterday (3 December 2012). 

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien is currently still listed as the Head of Department of the Northern Cape's Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs. 

Although Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's professional qualifications are unknown, what we do know is that she served in the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). Ms Apelgren-Narkedien was one of the MK Soldiers involved in the infamous of bombing of Durban's Magoo's Bar in 1986 which resulted in the death of women and more than 70 civilian injuries. Ms Apelgren-Narkedien applied for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, together with Robert McBride in 1999. Amnesty was granted in April 2001.

Although Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's permanent appointment (if confirmed by DAFF) will end the farce of having had some 9 acting DDG's over the past 2 years, it remains to be seen whether Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's lack of fisheries experience and knowledge will simply fast-track the total implosion of DAFF.

Like most institutions in this country, the fisheries branch has become nothing more than a political turf. Most recently we have seen the Minister's slimy hand involved in the unilateral and sudden abandonment of the west coast rock lobster recovery plan and operational management procedure to satisfy a single right holder who happens to have a direct phone line to her.

In addition, Ms Apelgren-Narkedien assumes her post at a time when it is plainly apparent that -
  • it is now legally impossible to allocate some 1000 fishing rights in 8 commercial and artisinal fisheries in 2013; 
  • the much-vaunted but fatally flawed "small-scale fisheries policy" will be nothing more than an empty populist promise (much like Joemat-Pettersson's unlawful promise to farm workers that they would get their R150/day pay hike by 4 December and that she will tell the prosecution authorities not to prosecute any farm worker for violence and destruction to farm lands); 
  • the fisheries research department sits with a 30% staff vacancy rate and not to mention that the majority of its most skilled and talented scientists are within 3 years of retirement with little or no succession plans in place; 
  • the fisheries research and patrol vessels appear doomed to remain cockroach and rat infested harbour-bound ships in Simonstown Harbour under dubious naval "command"; 
  • fisheries compliance remains moribund at best despite valiant efforts by a number of extremely hard-working fishery control officers on the ground. The department recently confirmed to Parliament that it has effectively given up the battle against abalone poaching with their strategy firmly focussed on confiscating as much abalone as possible (and thus earning more and more money from illegally harvested product). 
  • inshore fisheries management has fundamentally failed. Every single inshore fishery has been decimated by IUU fishing. The oldest fishery in the land - traditional line fishing - remains under environmental emergency; abalone has essentially completely collapsed between Arniston and Hangklip (Zones A - D) with zero recruitment being recorded in Zones C and D; and lobster is at 3% of pristine or 97% overexploited and the Minister has just abandoned the recovery plan to appease a single right holder.
  • the general but escalating mismanagement of fisheries increasingly places South Africa's prized  hake trawl MSC certification at risk. 
It is therefore hard to imagine how Ms Apelgren-Narkedien will compensate for her lack of expert and high-level knowledge of fisheries management as she seeks to address the above major obstacles in the next 6-12 months. Hint: Perhaps Ms Apelgren-Narkedien should urgently look back in history to 2000?

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