The Sunday Times and City Press newspapers today confirm what we at Feike have been alleging for some time - that the 2013 fishing rights allocation process and our fisheries management administration under the leadership of Tina Joemat-Pettersson and her self-appointed cadre, Desmond Stevens, has descended into a cesspool of corruption and the illicit and unlawful allocation of multi-million rand quotas to ANC cadres.
The Sunday Times reveals that it has an email in which Stevens openly solicits a bribe of R100,000. In terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, the content of this email would almost certainly amount to an illegal gratification in terms of the Act. Conviction on such a charge carries a sentence of 15 years imprisonment.
And then there are the illicit transfer of the fishing rights to the many ANC cadres, "community" representatives and connected few.
Stevens' inexplicable conduct when allocating fishing rights (as confirmed by the Harris, Nupen Molebatsi Report) of course is further confirmation that legality and good governance did not underpin the 2013 rights allocation process.
And then there is that Dennis Fredericks character. Fredericks' history of bad and suspicious decision-making at the fisheries department in the 1990's, which ultimately led to his removal from the department in 2004, is of course legendary. And how can we forget his disastrous involvement as a "consultant" to a number of fishing companies in the 2005 rights allocation process, which resulted in the catastrophic implosion of a black-owned and successful fishing company. That he was re-employed by the Fisheries Department after this history only confirmed the parlous state of governance at the Fisheries Department.
And now, true to form and as predictable as a sand-storm in the Sahara, the Sunday Times reveals that Mr Fredericks has been running a private Nedbank account into which bribes were paid for "permit exemptions". Bribes of between R10,000 and R50,000 appear to have been paid into this account according to the Sunday Times. As with Mr Stevens, such conduct would be illegal and a contravention of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act. Conviction on such a charge also carries a sentence of 15 years imprisonment.
So, instead of responsibly managing our fisheries and "empowering" coastal communities and "transforming" the fisheries sector, what is plainly apparent is that these incompetent and unqualified cadres were sinking the fisheries department, the communities that were supposedly to benefit from quotas and our fisheries resources.
The question is what is being done to fix the Fisheries Branch now? The only thing we know is that according to the new DDG of Fisheries, Mortimer Mannya, there are investigations into "various allegations of corruption and misconduct." But, the Fisheries Department continues to remain silent on what is being done to set side the 2013 FRAP and what the proposed timetable is for the re-allocation of these rights. Not to mention the loud silence around the abalone rights allocation process which ought to be full-swing now (rights to be re-allocated by July 2014).
And what about the intended 2015 rights allocation process which will certainly have to be postponed by at least 3 years now? Again silence.
What is apparent and increasingly undoubtedly clear, is that the department is presently mired in infighting, investigations, corruption and maladministration. The pool of skilled fisheries managers capable of designing and implementing a lawful and proper rights allocation process is simply non-existent. In other words, there literally is no one at DAFF who knows how to design and implement a process that can result in the re-allocation of multi-billion fishing rights.
At this juncture, our immediate advice to the new fisheries minister remains -
1. Ensure that you employ a specialist and skilled fisheries advisor to guide the rapid turn-around of the Fisheries Branch before it becomes irreparable;
2. Reverse the catastrophic policy of cadre deployment and focus on employing only the very best and most skilled managers to run the Fisheries Branch and each fishery sector;
3. Remove the corrupt, tainted and incompetent staff in the Branch without delay and ensure that criminal proceedings are instituted and supported;
4. Amend Section 18 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998, to allow for the roll-over of the 2015 fishing rights allocation process. Not only is there not enough time to prepare for such a process in 12 months' time, but the stench of corruption, maladministration and shocking lack of governance and available skills to undertake such a complex process simply precludes the commencement of any processes related to another fishing rights allocation. We simply cant afford a repeat of the corrupt, tainted and illegal 2013 FRAP.