Thursday, July 17, 2014

The DA's Response to the Minister's Budget Vote

The DA's Zelda Jongbloed provided a detailed reply to the Fisheries Minister's budget vote. Ms Jongbloed focussed entirely on the calamitous state of the fisheries department and the crises affecting the various fishing sectors, the rights allocation processes (past and upcoming) and the ongoing problems concerning our fisheries patrol and research vessels. 

Given the focus of Ms Jongbloed's response on fisheries, we have elected to provide the complete speech below.

"Honourable chair, two recent developments proved damning for the South African fishing industry: The first was the report by the Public Protector into allegations of a dodgy tender to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium by DAFF. The second was the abandonment of the flawed FRAP2013-fishing rights process.

The Docked Vessels Report still has to be formally tabled and considered by this Committee. But the Public Protector has been ignored yet again. Not a single official (let alone the previous Minister) has been sanctioned in any way for massive failures that resulted, inter alia, in the failed 2013 FRAP, the decimation of our fish stocks due to DAFF’s inability to protect them and the huge amounts wasted in repairing vessels that were in perfect working order when they were handed to the DAFF and the Navy on 31 March 2012. The DDG has now indicated that all the patrol vessels are back at sea which is exactly what the DA has been fighting for. 

South Africa's premier research vessel, the Africana, has possibly been ruined beyond repair. Mr Mannya had stated that the age of the 30-year-old vessel was a problem and that a decision will soon have to be taken whether and when to replace it. The Africana’s age is irrelevant - at least it was when we had a credible and professional company managing our R1b fleet of research and patrol vessels. This vessel should have had at least another 10 years of uninterrupted service had it not been destroyed by DAFF’s and the Navy’s incompetence. 

What Mr Mannya didn’t tell us is that Treasury has previously refused funding for a replacement vessel. This means that for now DAFF's research capacity iro our most important fisheries - hake trawl and small pelagics - will depend on the availability of the SA fishing industry to provide commercial vessels to help out or we run the risk of losing our hard-won Marine Stewardship Council eco-label and access to North American and EU markets for our fish. Can you imagine the impact on our economy and jobs if we lost access to those markets?

Secondly, putting the patrol vessels back at sea is one thing - the key question is how much are we spending on each vessel and how many days will they effectively be spending offshore. Patrol vessels must be at sea strategically patrolling and notrotting in the harbour. 

 I agree with the government’s policy to look after subsistence and small-scale fisher communities. But the only way to properly empower local fishers, is to allocate sustainable  fishing rights to them in their own names rather than in the names of the fancied co-operatives, which have historically proved to be a massive failure and continue to fail. The key management philosophy underpinning all successful small-scale fisheries around the world is TURF - the Territorial User Rights Fishery system, which ensures that right holders are allocated sustainable fishing rights for a long term period on their doorsteps and are also included directly in the management of these fish stocks. Co-operatives have proven to only lead to resource destruction, community conflict and corruption. Why is it then, that we continue to insist on adopting a system of fisheries management that is a proven failure? 

In addition, our focus must not be on the continuous divvying up of fishing quotas to more and more people, making these quotas unsustainable and a tool for illegal fishing. We must heed the warnings of the National Development Plan, which instructs us to halt the unsustainable division of the current fish pie into minuscule pieces that do not assist in poverty reduction, job creation and promoting investment. 

If we are to truly commit to the ongoing transformation of our fishing sector, we must look to investing in new fisheries and expand the current number of 22 commercial and small-scale fisheries to at least 25 by 2015. Why has DAFF not opened a single new commercial fishery since 2004? Why is the experimental octopus fishery an ongoing experiment for more than 8 years? Why is DAFF refusing to invest substantial resources in our mackerel fishery to finally determine a viable and sustainable TAC as opposed to the ongoing annual declarations of maximum precautionary catch limits? The Namibian horse mackerel TAC currently exceeds 300,000 tons. South Africa’s limit for mackerel has been stagnant at 40,000 tons. Why? How many jobs have we sacrificed? How many black investors have we excluded from this high value fishery? 

The DA supports a substantial mind-set shift away from decimating our current fisheries to add more and more unsustainable and uneconomic rights. The DA will fight for the declaration of new and expanded fisheries, including a sustainable but larger TAC for the horse mackerel fishery, a new small-scale commercial herring fishery and a commercial octopus fishery. This will give tens if not hundreds or thousands of right holders sustainable access to our fisheries sector without threatening current investments and denying one person to accommodate the other. 

In addition, the DA will press for the immediate halt of the current destructive patronage systems which have reduced our fishing harbours to the current uneconomic and appalling state in which they are presently. We believe that we can urgently and immediately empower coastal communities such as the people of Hout Bay with a community-based mussel and oyster harvesting fish farming project in the harbour itself. 

But DAFF refuses to remove the fleet of sunken boats from the harbour and ANC cronies like Timothy Jacobs and his pals control access to the harbour and its resources. The abandoned Oceana factory and other spaces in the harbour could be used to develop small-scale tilapia farms and grow-outs! Why is DAFF not supporting our communities with honest and viable empowerment projects? Instead, we keep on talking about taking current quotas away from people or dividing up quotas amongst more and more people forcing people into poverty and poaching. The DA supports growing the size of our country’s fishing and fish farming economies instead of destroying value at every given opportunity.

However, the  bigger issue, honourable minister, is the small-scale fisheries programme, its implementation, the cost thereof, and the  unrealistic  expectations being created in coastal communities. There is simply not enough near-shore resources to meet the huge expectations that have been created in coastal communities. Add to this the department’s penchant for co-operatives to process and market people’s allocations and you have a recipe for disaster. Co-ops as an empowerment tool, is just another name for collectivisation leading to contrived communities with little in common. I’d like to know why DAFF is paying lip service to caring for coastal communities. This committee decided in 2012 after public hearings on the transformation of the fishing industry that co-ops must be avoided. Our history tells us that co-ops in fisheries are a recipe for failure, corruption, resource destruction and community conflict. The DA believes that co-operatives allow illegal activities to be shielded from scrutiny and accountability.  And now we have example after example from Hondeklipbaai to Kleinmond, Mount Pleasant to Stanford. At Doringbaai, DAFF’s flagship co-op is a massive failure, conflict-ridden  with no bank account, no record of income and expenses, no taxes being paid and ongoing poverty.

In Langebaan, just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, fishing rights-holders are suffering under what points to poor governance, at the least, or possible corruption and maladministration in the name of co-operative management by Coastal Links/Masifundisi .

Possible illegal action include unilateral removal of the names of relief fishers from the official relief lobster list; refusing rights holders access to contracts concluded in their names, refusal to hold proper AGMs, refusing right-holders the right to harvest their own catch, turning them into mere paper quota-holders. We need to get Sulene Smith of Coastal Links Langebaan to come and explain to this committee.

The recent FRAP2013-process threw the industry in disarray, left thousands of previous right holders unemployed and without the ability to provide for their families, and forced people to fish on exemption. Each interim relief right is worth less than R2000 a month in income which is why poaching and the illegal fishing of lobster is so huge. The average woman employed to clean fish in a fish factory earns at least three times this amount. 

Why are you forcing people into poverty? Interim relief is nothing more than a mechanism to promote the enrichment of a few "connected community representatives" and middlemen to the detriment of thousands. We need to stop this interim-relief handouts. What we need are the sustainable commercial alternatives I have just detailed above. 138kg of lobster only supports poverty and poaching!

Die agbare pres. Jacob Zuma het belowe om korrupsie uit te roei. Indien dit so is, hoekom word die voormalige, waarnemende hoof van Vissery, mnr. Desmond Stevens, aan wie die Frapp-gemors toegedig word, nie aangekla nie? Of word hy in lyn met die ANC se gewoonte, herontplooi? Hoe kan mense toegelaat word om soveel moeilikheid en ongerief te veroorsaak sonder dat daar enige sanksie, enige gevolge, enige ondersoek is? 

Ten opsigte van die maatskappy Orca aan wie ‘n kontrak van R9m toegeken is om die FRAP-proses te bestuur, wil die DA  graag weer of DAFF die maatskappy dagvaar. Hoe is dit moontlik dat mense met die regte politieke bande visregte gekry het en niemand ondersoek dit nie?

How can the people of this country reconcile such blatantly nepotistic action with a commitment to stamp out corruption if the ones behind this are still working for the Government? There are huge concerns and uncertainty about the implementation of the small scale fisheries programme. The devil is in the detail but nobody is giving the details. 

For proper implementation, all stakeholders should actually be consulted on draft policies, the proposed rights allocation process, application fees etc and then finalising these via Section 85 of the Constitution calling for applications and then deciding these applications in terms of a lawful, transparent and fair decision-making processes.  

Honourable Chair, can there be greater irony than the oyster harvesters from Mossel Bay who lost their rights through the flawed FRAP-process: while their families were going hungry last week because they have not been given interim relief, large numbers of visitors were quaffing champagne and eating oysters and the Knysna Oyster Festival east of their hometown.

And listen to this: as part of the plan to empower fishermen, the DTI has been dishing out boats like lucky packets without putting mechanisms in place to put them to sea and keep them there. The CEO of a big fishing company recently told me that the boats given to fishermen, are not fit for purpose and that the boats are being sold off, part by part, because they cannot afford to run them. This is no empowerment. Why did DAFF not bother to speak to the fishermen themselves before embarking on such a shockingly useless and expensive exercise?  

Honourable chair, I’ve noticed the honourable Deputy Minister Cele continues to call himself General. May I remind him that he was fired before the end of his term so he has lost any right to call himself General.

I find it quite encouraging that an ex-trade-unionist is now the new minister. Maybe he IS the right person to rectify the calamitous mess left behind in the wake of the honourable Joemat-Petterson. Honourable minister, you know what hard work is, you’ve been down mineshafts. The ultimate responsibility to stabilise fisheries, now rests on your shoulders. 

Please visit coastal communities to see the havoc and hardship for yourself. Hopefully you will then intervene and stop DAFF dishing out poverty."

No comments:

Post a Comment