The hapless and confused ANC-led Fisheries Portfolio Committee further embarrassed itself yesterday when it called for an investigation into Smit Amandla Marine's (SAM) management of the research and patrol vessels.
The call is embarrassing because the committee has failed to do anything remotely constructive or to justify their grossly inflated salaries over the past 18 months since these vessels were handed to the Department of Fisheries by SAM. Instead, they have been happy to hear one fairytale after another about the state of readiness of the one or other vessel. The vessels appear to always be 80% ready!
Lulu Johnson, the chairperson of the committee now alleges that the vessels are in serious disrepair! No. The man is truly insightful! The only problem for Lulu is that the disrepair has nothing to do with SAM but everything to do with the Navy and DAFF ... and his failure to act like a responsible parliamentarian and hold these departments accountable for the mess they have caused. Instead, Lulu did everything he could over the past 18 months to shield the Fisheries Minister and the department's comrade officials from accounting for the disaster we continue to face.
What Lulu cant explain is why did he not immediately march his committee to Simonstown on Saturday 31 March 2012 to oversee the handing over of these vessels worth R1 billion. Had he done so, he would have no doubt witnessed the excellent condition that these vessels were in - hell they were working with engines running, insured and licensed to sail! SAM did not employ those geniuses we have at the Navy that were able to pump seawater into the fuel tanks and wreck the Africana! He would have also noticed that not a single senior manager from DAFF was present to receive these vessels but instead a couple of clueless Naval officers were present to receive vessels they had never before seen, inspected or probably even heard about! Has Lulu asked the Navy for their reports on each vessel recording what they received that Saturday in 2012 from SAM?
Had Lulu and his committee then actually done a bit of work and "oversight" for which they are so handsomely paid, they would have noticed the polished brass on the Africana and its spotless and functioning laboratories. Of course the Africana has been stripped of all its brass fittings and attachments and the labs are a cesspool of filth, apparently overrun by rats. Apparently, even the cutlery was "removed" while under naval "care".
What does Lulu say to these questions -
1. Why did the Navy or DAFF not officially report the parlous state of these vessels immediately when the vessels were handed over? Where are the handover reports for each vessel signed by SAM, the Navy and DAFF and dated 31 March 2012? What do these reports say? Lets see the photographs showing the serious disrepair we are told of.
2. Why did his committee not oversee the hand-over of these vessels on 31 March 2012? Where were they on 31 March 2012? These vessels are public assets and as public representatives, Lulu and committee have a responsibility to ensure that these public assets are not destroyed.
3. If the vessels were in such apparent disrepair and so thoroughly mismanaged by SAM, why did these vessels sail into port under their own steam and why were these vessels able to operate at sea before that? Can Lulu tell us how many days between April 2011 and March 2012 did each of the vessels spend in port because they were "broken" or unable to sail due to mechanical failure or mismanagement by SAM?
4. Most pertinently, how does dear Lulu know that the vessels were in such "serious disrepair" when they were handed to the Navy on 31 March 2012, given that it took him and his committee until September to finally visit the vessels at Simonstown for the very first time, by which time these vessels were under the mismanagement of the Navy and DAFF for a full 7 months! Perhaps, Lulu can tell us how many times he and his committee had inspected these vessels between 2009 and 2012? Once?, Twice? Ten times? Never? If never, why did they fail to inspect these public assets and ensure they were being operated and managed responsibly?
And then, let us not forget about that expensive Ernst and Young Report that the DAFF commissioned and initially used to confirm serious charges and allegations against SAM. But when the report was leaked and made public, it became clear that DAFF blatantly lied about its findings! After its leaking, DAFF suddenly abandoned Ernst & Young and canned the report!
Has dear Lulu read the Ernst & Young Report? My guess is that his sudden call now for a "full-blown investigation" into SAM is clearly aimed at deflecting attention from the inevitable findings of the Public Protector who may very well be preparing to publish her report into the R800 million Sekunjalo / DAFF vessel tender debacle that resulted in the destruction of South Africa's R1 billion fleet of once fully operational and well-managed patrol and research vessels.
Feike has requested that the DA, as the Official Opposition, commence an urgent and independent assessment of the state of these vessels. The DA's Pieter van Dalen and Annette Steyn have confirmed that they will support such an independent assessment as the DAFF cannot be trusted.