The 2013 draft General Fisheries Policy was gazetted on 17 April 2013. The gazette notice confirms a public consultation process that ends on 10 May 2013 and that calls for applications will be made in May 2013.
We reiterate that this consultation process is problematic and unlawful for a number of reasons:
1. The public consultation process component has not included members of the public as no one other right holders have been invited to attend these meetings. Adverts have not been placed notifying members of the public of the impending public consultation process and what is the purpose of the consultation process. In addition large swathes of coastal communities are being ignored by this public consultation process, including huge chunks of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape coasts.
2. The public consultation process commenced BEFORE the actual draft policy was gazetted and this draft policy has been gazetted in only one language - English. It is therefore not accessible to the majority of quota holders or interested persons. The consultation process is improper and inadequate on this ground alone.
3. The public consultation process has commenced without any sight of the sector specific fishery policies that are referred to regularly in the draft General Policy. The draft General Policy is substantively meaningless without the sector specific policies.
4. The timeframe for the consultation process is less than 30 days. This is entirely unfair and unreasonable given the importance, scope and complexity of the subject matter being consulted on. Further, the department's assertions that it will call for applications within 2 weeks after the end of the consultation process on 10 May is a further indication that any comments submitted will be ignored as it is simply impossible for all comments to be considered, debated internally, the amendments effected and initial ministerial approval received for the finalisation of the final General Policy. The department appears to be undertaking the consultation process as a sham.
5. BUT WHERE ARE THE DRAFT SECTOR SPECIFIC POLICIES? It is impossible to conclude a consultation process on the draft general policy without these critical sector policies! Given the fact that these policies have yet to be published, the department will have to commence an entirely fresh and new consultation process once these sector policies are gazetted AND these consultative processes will then have to include further consultation on the DRAFT general policy AGAIN as these policies are inherently connected!
6. Only once the entire suite of draft general policy and sector specific policies are consulted on, can these be finalised. BUT once finalised by the Minister of Fisheries, these draft policies MUST THEN BE SUBMITTED TO CABINET for consideration and final approval in terms of section 85(2)(b) of the Constitution. By committing to an application process deadline of May 2013, is DAFF stating that they will simply ignore section 85(2)(b) and sidestep Cabinet?
Will the portfolio committee step in and stop this unlawful madness or will it simply standby and witness this monumental waste of money, time and resources and the violation of the rule of law it is charged with protecting?