News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday January 23rd 2019

Fisheries patrol vessel now back with company accused of corruption


Claims of the “imploding situation” at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) seem to have reached a new low with a DA MP saying he and Parliamentary Oversight Committee colleagues were deliberately deceived by the department’s officials last Friday.

At issue was the country’s seven maritime and patrol boats managed by DAFF were not seaworthy and have been docked at Simons Town Naval Base for the last six months.

This has left the country’s exclusive economic fishing zones unprotected and open to illegal activities such as poaching.

For the last decade until March, the vessels were contracted to specialist marine services Smith Amandla for maintenance and operation.

But the company lost its contract after DAFF Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson alleged that the company was corrupt and, amidst other claims, overcharged her department.

An R800 million contract for the maintenance and operating of the vessels was then given to Sekunjalo in March, but was then withdrawn due to alleged irregularities which are currently being investigated Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

On March 31, when Smith Amandla’s contract expired, the vessels were handed over to the navy at Simons Town and their operations set to be subject to the Defence Act.

But DA MP Pieter van Dalen said today that during a presentation by officials from DAFF and the Navy, they were told that all seven vessels in question were in a state of disrepair and were not operating.

Yet, he said, a source of his later told him that on Friday one of the seven ships, the SAS Algoa, was now operating under the Department of Environmental Affairs and contracted to Smit Amandla, was at sea sailing toward East London.

Van Dalen said this was surprising because Joemat-Petterson had earlier alleged that Smit Amandla was corrupt, yet the Department of Environmental Affairs had taken the same company on board to maintain the vessel.

“I thought we were one government,” he said, indicating that he would request that ministers of DAFF, Defence and Environmental Affairs be invited to Parliament to clarify what was going on.

Defending Smit Amandla, Van Dalen said the company was not corrupt as alleged by Joemat-Petterson whom he said was “quite crazy”, adding that a number of her top management had been fired and “everyone (there) is running for cover”.

Advocate Shaheen Molla who previously served as special adviser to former Environmental Affairs Minister Valli Moosa as well as head of SA’s fisheries management and compliance unit, also hit out at Joemat-Petterson.

Molla, a blogger and director at natural resources advisory firm Feike told West Cape News that failure to have the boats patrolling SA waters was akin to having the police not performing their duties.

On the alleged firing of staff , he said  Joemat-Petterson had “lost her mind” claiming that  department spokesman Selby Bokaba had been suspended and the minister’s private secretary “fired or suspended”.

“At present, the department is without a Director-General, a Deputy Director-General, a plethora of top managers and a spokesperson.

“The Minister had recently also suspended her ‘special’ adviser, Rams Mabote – not that his suspension weakened fisheries management in any way, though,” he wrote online.

Molla said the department was “imploding”.

Neither Palesa Mokomela who is listed as the spokesperson on the department’s website, nor its director general Mono Mashaba could be reached for comment by the time of going to press.

Navy communications officer commander Prince Tshabalala could not be reached for comment. – Francis Hweshe

Tags: DAFF, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Feike, Mono Mashaba, Palesa Mokomela, Pieter van Dalen, Prince Tshabalala, Rams Mabote, SAS Algoa, Sekunjalo, Selby Bokaba, Shaheen Molla, Smith Amandla, Thuli Madonsela, Tina Joemat-Petterson, Valli Moosa

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