There are less than 20 days to go to 31 December 2013 when some 1000 fishing rights in 8 commercial and artisinal fishing sectors automatically revert back to the SA government, summarily leaving 1000 quota holders without fishing rights and threatening more than 5000-6000 direct jobs.
Is this Tina Joemat-Pettersson's new year's present to the fishing industry? Both the Minister and her staff have repeatedly promised that fishing rights would have been long allocated by now. In fact, the department's most recent and current timetable on the allocation of fishing rights continues to state that all fishing rights would be allocated by September .... 2013!!
Perhaps what is most telling BUT concerning is the loud silence on the status of the allocation process. DAFF and its Minister refuse to issue a single press statement or provide any assurance to very distrusting and worried fishing industry.
For one, the Fisheries Department has still not published its promised "grant of fishing rights fees"! Remember this promise which was made back in September when they decided to zero-rate the application fees because they ran out of time? Before, the final fees can be published (which can only occur with the concurrence of the Finance Minister), they must first be published for comment in terms of South African law. And, after the burial of President Mandela on Sunday, Ministers start their annual leave. Where is the draft Grant of Fishing Fishing Right Fees gazette, DAFF? Tick, tick, tick.
So what happens in 20 days' time on 1 January 2014? There cannot be a "roll-over" of fishing rights. Section 18 of the Marine Living Resources Act does not permit this. What is a great sadness is how the insistence on "transformation" (well, actually cadre deployment of appallingly unqualified and unskilled but loyal ANC members to the top management posts at the Fisheries Department) has retarded the lawful and constitutionally mandated transformation of fisheries management in South Africa. The 2013 right allocation debacle only takes us back to the previous century and the chaos that defined every annual allocation in the late 1990's. Make no mistake, this retardation and chaos will clearly benefit certain persons and that is becoming increasingly clear.
And to think the Department only had 8 years to prepare for this allocation process.