Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Strife Growing Among IR Fishers & the Questionable "Two Oceans" Company

During the 2012/2013 season 38 fishers held interim relief (IR) lobster fishing quotas in the Struisbaai area. For the current season, DAFF added a further 20 quota holders and with them came a new "community" representative appointed by DAFF. The original community representative, Mr Henry Bantom, who was appointed by the 38 IR quota holders has been removed and replaced by a Mr Charles Thompson. No one seems to know how this person was appointed to represent an entire community of Struisbaai lobster fishers and when this appointment occurred. 

What is clear is that the 38 original quota holders have been told by DAFF officials, including Desmond Stevens, that he will not talk to them. Stevens  will only communicate with the representative - Mr Thompson - who is now in charge of the entire Struisbaai lobster allocation. It is understood that - as has been reported in the Cape Times today (26 November) - a company called "Two Oceans" has been punted and put forward by Stevens and his department to harvest, process and market all lobster between Struisbaai and Kleinmond. Two Oceans is actually the "trading name" for a company called Partinex [CORRECTION: Parinetix] (Pty) Ltd with registration number 2012/21/2110/07. The two listed directors are a Shawn Pattison and Crystal Dawn Gerstner. It is unlawful for a company to have a trading name under the 2008 Consumer Protection Act that is not its registered name.

The more substantial concern is that "Two Oceans" is merely a front earning substantial fees while the fishers will once again get to suck on the hind tit. Fishers are under the impression that Two Oceans will pay them R200/kg for their lobster.

And although R200/kg sounds awfully enticing, the Two Oceans contract only offers the R200/kg price between 15 October and 15 December! How dishonest! Fishing permits were only issued after 15 November so in fact the R200/kg offer is valid for less than 30 days and in any case catching costs of approximately R50/kg must still be deducted! The price then decreases rapidly after 15 December to 155kg for live export lobster only (minus catching costs)! Frozen lobsters are paid out at R90/kg. Quite frankly, the Department has ensured that by forcing right IR quota holders to sign up with Two Oceans these quota holders will get thoroughly screwed. We have no doubt that Two Oceans will end up declaring to each IR quota holder that only a small percentage of the fish harvested was export quality and therefore - and we guarantee this - each IR quota holder will end up being paid the R90/kg for most of their lobsters. So, instead of earning in excess of R25,000 for their lobster quotas, we reckon that come the end of the season, IR quota holders will be looking at each other lucky to receive R15,000 each.

So which departmental officials are benefitting from this toxic deal? Which senior officials have been punting Two Oceans? The reek of maladministration and corruption is overwhelming here simply because other companies had, for example, offered R205 /kg for lobster payable between 15 November and the end of the season on 30 June 2014! So why was this offer not taken up? Why did the Department intervene directly in communities by removing elected representatives and force their chosen "representatives" on communities who then promptly signed agreements with Two Oceans? And who has signed these agreements purportedly binding entire "communities" and under what legal authority? 

It was also reported in the Cape Times this morning that Carol Moses of the Fisheries Department confirmed that IR fishing quotas were allocated on a communal basis. This is a clear admission of illegality as communal quotas are not permitted under the Marine Living Resources Act. Further, if this is the nature of co-operative-type fishing allocations, be warned. It is a process tarred with illegality, capriciousness and corruption.

We warned the portfolio committee about these threats and abuses. We have been beating this drum for  months now. This is why co-operatives - and particularly SACFC - failed in the past. Corruption. Maladministration. Greed. Marginalisation of real fishers. The fact that our warnings are materialising so soon is awfully worrying and a sign that officials at DAFF consider themselves to be untouchable and a law unto themselves. 

Feike, together with the Democratic Alliance, has submitted a complaint to the Public Protector to investigate this entire process, the role played by officials in forcing quota holders to sign up with Two Oceans and to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption that have been levelled against known senior officials.

Please forward any information you may have on this process, including bribes you suspect are being paid to officials at DAFF, threats being made by DAFF officials against community members not wanting to "tow the line" or any other suspected wrongdoing. You can submit this information confidentially to 086 537 8559 (fax) or email Shaheen Moolla or WhatsApp information. All information will be treated with the strictest of confidence and once submitted to the Public Protector, information is protected from disclosure under the Public Protector Act. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

We can not allow this type of vulgar and predatory corruption and maladministration to continue unabated. 

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