The Hon. Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, briefed the Committee on the transfer of Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The draft fisheries plan included a temporary lifting of the abalone ban and the development of alternative industries for the coastal communities such as marine aquaculture, as abalone was a finite resource.
The Department reported that it had become responsible since 01 April 2010 for what had been known as Marine and Coastal Management but was now called Fisheries. Marine and Coastal Management’s establishment had been 890 posts. The Department had taken over 737 posts; 152 had been transferred to the Department of Environmental Affairs. 620 of the posts transferred to the Department had been filled and 117 were vacant. The Department outlined the nine goals that it had set itself. The new focus of the Department was to develop small-scale fisheries, an inland fishing policy, and review institutional management. It wanted to decentralise the permit system so people did not have to travel long distances to apply. It wanted to develop a Comprehensive Finance Scheme for Fisheries. A multi sector approach to law enforcement was needed. The Department was compensating communities which had lost possessions when the ban had been implemented. It was seeking to make the fisheries sector a sustainable option for small-scale fisherman; one possibility in this regard was marine aquaculture. A goal was for each of the provinces to have proper value chain developments and support, from the fishing to the canning and manufacture of related by-products. This would be the biggest challenge. Commercial fishermen had quotas valid for 15 years and yet there were no permits for coastal fishing communities. It could not do anything in this regard currently as those functions were not yet with the Department.
Members were forthright and vociferous in their concern and desire to see a forensic audit of the Department taking place as soon as the full transfer of the Marine and Coastal Management to the Department had occurred. They were concerned at the delay in action to implement assistance to small-scale fishing communities. They wanted to know how abalone permits were allocated, what happened to confiscated abalone, when the vacant posts would be filled, and when new entrants from amongst the poor were going to get fishing permits.
The Committee adopted its oversight report with amendments. Members were concerned at the number of failures at state training farms, resolved to contact the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to identify all failed farm projects, and said that the Qamata area had the potential to become the breadbasket of the Eastern Cape. They had received feedback on some recommendations which already been implemented. They had finally received documents dealing with Pezulukomkhono Cooperative, which showed that there was a fraud case being investigated by the commercial branch of the South African Police Service. Members wanted to know if anything could be done to a Department official who had deliberately lied to them. Members wanted follow up to be done to ensure that the very successful trainee farmers whom they had met were supported in obtaining farms.
Minister’s and Department’s Briefing
The Hon. Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, briefed the Committee on the transfer of Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) to the Department. The briefing would deal with the functions acquired since 10 February 2010. The Department was considering a temporary removal on the ban on abalone fishing. It had been taken to Cabinet which had referred it back to the cluster. The Department would be meeting with the cluster that same day (01 June) and would approach Cabinet again where, if the memo was accepted, it would be implemented by 15 June 2010.
The draft fisheries plan called also for plans to curb poaching and to develop alternative industries for the coastal communities such as marine aquaculture, as abalone was a finite resource.
Dr Mono Mashaba, Acting Deputy Director-General: Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that the Department had become responsible since 01 April 2010 for what had been known as MCM but was now called Fisheries. MCM’s establishment had been 890 posts. The Department had taken over 737 posts; 152 had been transferred to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). 620 of the posts transferred to the Department had been filled and 117 were vacant. He outlined the nine goals the Department had set itself in the draft Sea Fisheries Plan. The new focus of the Department was to develop the resource, compared to the old focus of controlling the resource. It would work on developing a national fisheries policy and a small-scale fisheries policy. In 2007, the court had ordered the MCM to develop a small-scale fisheries policy but nothing had occurred. It had held workshops with communities to start this process. It wanted to decentralise the permit system so people did not have to travel long distances to apply. It wanted to develop a Comprehensive Finance Scheme for Fisheries. The biggest challenge would be the development of zone specific development programmes.
The Minister said that a multi sector approach to law enforcement was needed, as the Department did not have a 24-hour programme. From 4pm to 8am the coast was vulnerable. She said that when the abalone ban was implemented the Department was supposed to have provided alternative livelihood sources. That social relief had never been given until two weeks ago. People had lost houses, cars and other possessions. The Department was seeking to make the fisheries sector a sustainable option for small-scale fisherman; one possibility in this regard was marine aquaculture. A goal was for each of the provinces to have aquaculture development zones with proper value chain development and support goals, not stopping at the fishing but moving on to canning and the manufacture of related by-products.
The Minister said the last 18% of MCM had not been transferred to the Department, yet this was the most critical part. It included the sections on fishing quotas. Commercial fishing companies had quotas valid for 15 years and yet there were no rights for coastal communities in that time. The Department could not do anything in this regard currently as those functions were not yet with the Department.
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) asked whether the slate of the fisheries division which the Department was taking over, was clean.
Ms N Phaliso (ANC) said that the briefing was not good news for the poor coastal fishing communities. The privileged of pre-1994 had commercial quotas valid for 15 years. When would there be new entrants from amongst the poor getting quotas for fishing? It appeared the Department was still in the planning stage. When would the full transfer of MCM occur?
Mr L Bosman (DA) said that cognizance should be taken of the commercial fishing sector’s being the biggest fishing sector and employing thousands of black people.
Mr N du Toit (DA) said he was disappointed at only getting the document at the meeting when it had been compiled in May. He wanted to know when the original was written. How many personnel were there five years ago and how many were there currently? What was the cost of aquaculture implementation? Who was writing the fisheries policy for the last two to five years? Who (name and position) decided abalone permit allocations and how was the decision arrived at? How was abalone leaving the country? He wondered what the Department meant by transforming the fishing sector, as it was capital intensive and also required specialised skills.
The Minister replied that she could not speak on the fishing quotas as that function was not yet with the Department. She said the idea was to pool the quota rights of individuals into a collective rather than selling those rights to big corporations. Then the Department could assist them with capital infrastructure and investment. She recognised that it was a specialised field but also recognised the value of indigenous knowledge held by individuals.
She said because of difficulties in the sector she was calling for forensic audits as “the (commercial fishing) industry had its tentacles in the Department”. When the Department confiscated abalone the proceeds of their sale contributed towards the budget of the Department. So, bizarrely, the Department had had a vested interest in poaching. This was one of the policy changes the Department needed to make.
The Chairperson asked where confiscated abalone was taken.
The Minister said that the Department tendered for a company to manage the sale of the abalone with the proceeds going to the Department. She said the Department had started paying out relief to members of the community who had lost possessions. It would make a status report available to the Committee. She said that the Department was speeding up the forensic investigations and had employed a company to look at compliance of legislation and policy. She said every sector of the DAFF was run by monopolies. Fishing had an international monopoly. She did not want to sensationalise the illegalities but it was “infested” and a “hornets nest”. When investigations were being undertaken and information was released, it compromised the investigation.
The Chairperson wanted to know what had happened regarding a letter to the Presidency by residents of Hamburg (E. Cape) about abalone permits, which the Committee had passed on to the Department.
The Minister replied that Cabinet had taken a decision to ban all abalone activity. Only Cabinet could lift the ban. The Department wanted a partial lifting of the ban, which could be reviewed every three months. The Department had received several similar letters and the process was currently underway and if completed, would be finalised by 15 June 2010.
Mr S Abram (ANC) said the Minister had stated that it was “a hornet’s nest” and that it required a forensic audit. He called for a forensic audit into the MCM and an investigation into the fishing industry.
Mr Du Toit supported the call for forensic audit. He asked if fishermen would get their R6 700 application fee back if they were unsuccessful.
Ms Phaliso welcomed an investigation into the MCM.
Ms D Carter (COPE) asked what the levels of the vacant positions were, and whether there was money in the budget to employ staff and when the positions would be filled. She wanted time frames when plans would be implemented.
The Chairperson wanted an organogram of the Department
The Minister said the status of quotas was being reviewed, but by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Once the final proclamation transferring the MCM to DAFF occurred, the Department would have to review the DEA report in the light of the developmental policy framework of DAFF.
Regarding the filling of posts, she said that interviews for a Director-General had been held. Posts could only be filled once the departmental organogram had been approved by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The Department had asked that they be allowed to fill senior posts (while certain areas were being clarified). The DPSA had given permission. Interviews for a chief financial officer had been held and there was a short list for the post of Deputy Director-General for which interviews would be held soon. The refunds had not taken place yet, as the Department’s application for a temporary lifting of the abalone fishing ban might be granted.
Mr Mashaba said that there would be consultation with communities at a National Fisheries Summit at which the Department might be able to provide time frames.
Mr Abram said he wanted a “clean-up” of the Department.
Mr Bosman wanted information on the various categories and requirements of the different permits.
Mr Du Toit wanted a full investigation into the MCM.
Mr Mashaba said the Minister might consider expanding the KPMG investigation in the DAFF to include Fisheries.
The Chairperson wanted the Committee to be informed the moment the last proclamation had been signed transferring MCM to Fisheries and the investigation of the MCM had begun.
Mr Mashaba volunteered to be the contact liaison person at Fisheries for the Committee members.
Consideration of Oversight Report
The Chairperson said the Committee should correspond with the relevant departments to get updates regarding the recommendations of their oversight visits.
Mr Bosman said that this should include correspondence with Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
The Chairperson said that on Ncera farms, the police said they could not act to remove shack dwellers, except by court order. Regarding an item on page 1, he said that the matter had been reported to the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform
Mr Abram said that, on page 5, “ownership” should read “occupied”.
Mr Cebekhulu (IFP) suggested leases instead of Permission To Occupy (PTO), so that if people were not productively working, the land could be given to others.
Ms M Mabuza said that it took three years to get a PTO; if leases were easier and quicker to obtain then that was what should be done.
The Chairperson said that Members should ask the Department to brief them on the recommendations and on the forensic report recommendations.
Mr Bosman said that he supported the training farm in Queenstown and that Members should make sure that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform identify and allocate suitable farms for the trainees they had seen. That Department should report back to Members.
The Chairperson said that there had been no activity at Wildevrede farm and that the Department together with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform should identify all failed farms.
Mr Abram said that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform had said that most of them had failed; yet that Department had bought R2.6 billion worth of farms, which were lying idle. If one tackled the one issue then the other had to be tackled too.
Regarding Qamata, Mr Du Toit said that the Department should address the problem by introducing a mentor mechanism to the farms to monitor and protect them from failure from an earlier stage.
Mr Abram said that that land had lots of potential. With small scale farming it could become the breadbasket of the Eastern Cape. If the facilities were upgraded it could empower more people agriculturally and rural development was one of Governments priorities. He suggested that Members take it up as a pilot project together with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, with the latter as the lead Department.
The Chairperson said that after a struggle to get documents, he did eventually receive them from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. It reflected an investigation by the commercial branch of the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Phezukomkhono Cooperative.
Ms Mabuza asked what was going to be done to the official of the Department who had given a false report to the Committee during its oversight visit on what was happening on the farms.
The Chairperson said he wanted to know what other areas had similar cases of serious misconduct and embezzlement.
Mr Du Toit said that these were only a small percentage of failed projects. They were just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr Abram said the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform did not have a mechanism to keep track of projects. It did not return to projects to monitor them. Senior officials did not give the real facts and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform needed officials with integrity.
Mr Cebekhulu suggested the chairpersons of the two committees convene a meeting to identify all farms receiving state money.
The report was adopted with amendments.
The Chairperson said that he wanted timely quarterly reports from the Department and reminded Members that they needed to review the third term programme. The Committee’s budget had been increased and it needed to spend more time on oversight visits.
The meeting was adjourned.
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