Thursday, May 30, 2019

A New Minister for Fisheries & A New Departmental Configuration

The announcement on 29 May 2019 by the President of South Africa that South Africa's fisheries department will be amalgamated once again with environmental affairs (as it was pre-2009) is to be welcomed given that the 2009 decision to separate and disintegrate oceans and coastal management from fisheries was widely denounced by experts in the field, including Feike.

Complementing the re-configuration of the department, the President has appointed a new Minister to lead the Department of Fisheries, Environment and Forestry, Ms Barbara Creecy (former MEC responsible for Finance, Gauteng Province). Her appointment must be tentatively welcomed but her her tasks are substantial and immediate as 1000's of jobs are hanging by a thread, particularly in the lobster, abalone and pilchard fisheries given years of instability, maladministration, in-fighting and corruption. The current DDG of the Fisheries Branch, Ms Siphokazi Ndudane, will no doubt be relieved to be rid of the DG of Agriculture and should now be free to start cleaning out the Augean Stables of corruption, and we believe Ms Creecy must support Ms Ndudane as Valli Moosa backed his management team at the time to clean out the rot at the same department in 1999 and 2000.

The urgency with which this clean-out is required cannot be overemphasised. Ms Ndudane herself described the Fisheries Branch as being in "meltdown" earlier this year as corruption, in-fighting and maladministration crippled the branch from even undertaking the most basic of administrative functions.

Only once the Branch returns to a semblance of functionality, and Ms Ndudane has established a strong management team she and the Minister can trust, can serious preparatory work commence on the allocation of the multi-billion rand fishing rights allocation process, dubbed "FRAP 2020". This process in itself requires substantial policy development, process renewal and regulatory review. For one, the entire system of fishing levies requires revision (noting that these have not been revised or updated since September 2010). The 1998 Fisheries Regulations are outdated, impractical and simply not applicable to modern-day fisheries management.

Then, the entire administrative system underpinning fisheries administration is anachronistic and anti-small-scale fishing and fishers resident outside of the Cape Town metropolitan area. Why hard-copy fishing permit applications are still required in this day and age is beyond explicable (not to mention the requirement of all those irrelevant "supporting documents" like company registration documents and catching agreements etc).

We have already expressed our views on the simplicaftion of the fishing rights allocation process for small-scale commercial fishing sectors in (the old) Cluster C and Cluster D management system. These systems need to be developed to support a simpler, more efficient and more applicant-friendly fishing rights application and administration process. The greater the process is removed from the clutches of staff, the greater its integrity and insulation from corruption and manipulation. 

Minister Creecy will have to become personally involved in the nitty-gritty details of these issues with extreme urgency. And to complicate matters, she will have to quickly develop a plan to integrate the many duplicate management positions created when Marine and Coastal Management was artificially split into the "Fisheries Branch" and the "Oceans & Coasts Branch". 

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