Status of patrol and research vessels, state of readiness for fishing rights allocations, and status of fishing harbours and aquaculture projects

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

15 August 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Committee on the status of its patrol and research vessels, its state of readiness for the forthcoming fishing rights allocations, the status of the country’s 12 fishing harbours, and its involvement in aquaculture projects.

The presentation provided details of the maintenance and repair work being carried out on DAFF’s fleet, as well as the role of the South African Maritime Safety Authority in registering the seaworthiness of the vessels and specifying prescribed courses for completion by the fleet’s personnel.

The Department had published a revised general policy on fishing right applications, and eight sector specific policies, on 15 April 2013 for public comment. Consultative meetings had been held at 14 venues along the coastline. These meetings had covered the geographical area from Port Nolloth to Richard’s Bay in April. Included in these consultations were meetings with industry and small-scale fisheries’ associations. Consultative meetings were also held on the sector specific policies at 20 venues along the coast in May. All comments received by the Department by the due date had been considered.    

A feasibility study on fishing harbours had been concluded in 2008, and since then numerous consultations had taken place with relevant stakeholders, and to finalize the institutional arrangements for the fishing harbours, additional committees had been established -- an Inter Ministerial Committee (DAFF, DPW, NT) to provide guidance and political leadership on the process, and a Joint Working Committee, with the NT as the driver, to investigate the most appropriate management model.

There was a lack of qualified harbour masters in all harbours, and severe human resource shortages also resulted in crisis management. There was insufficient management /supervisory staff for effective service delivery. There were also inadequate and poor infrastructure repairs and maintenance by the NDPW, there was no skills retention plan for the workforce, and the harbour infrastructure was out-dated, with some harbours having been built in the 1920’s. There was non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and a lack of security, which resulted in criminal activities in the harbours.

There were 31 marine aquaculture farms that were currently fully operational -- 21 in the Western Cape, five in the Eastern Cape, four in the Northern Cape and one in KwaZulu Natal.  Of the 31 farms, four were government-funded and fully operational.  More farms would be getting government support through the Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme.  16 marine aquaculture hatcheries were in operation, most of which were in the Western Cape. There was also one government-funded marine hatchery in the Western Cape.  There were 161 freshwater aquaculture farms that were operational, most of which were in Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and Gauteng. 

Members were critical of the fishing rights application forms, saying they had not been simplified and were available only in English, to the detriment of the mainly Afrikaans-speaking fishing community.  The importance of amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act was debated, with the Department complaining that public participation meetings had been disrupted by Members and officials abused.   The fact that DAFF vessels had not been able to assist in a disaster situation, such as the recent Knysna grounding, due to certification issues, was strongly criticised.  Members also insisted that the Department look closely at the cost of repairing ageing vessels, compared to replacing them.  The also suggested that the Department should hand over the running of harbours to local government, as currently they were failing fishing communities.

Meeting report

Management of DAFF Fisheries Protection and Research Vessels

Mr Desmond Stevens, Acting Deputy Director General: Fisheries, said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) (SA Navy) to manage the DAFF fleet had expired on 31 March 2013.  In April a contract had been signed with Damen Shipyards for repairs and maintenance to the DAFF fleet. Also in April, Nautic South Africa (Pty) Ltd was appointed to run Vessel Operations. The contracts with Damen Shipyards and Nautic South Africa (Pty) Ltd were 6-month contracts, alongside the tender process to outsource the management, maintenance and operations of the fleet. The Vessel Technical Advisor / Vessel Expert had been contracted to assist with the specifications and provide advice on the process. Specifications had been developed and the tender was advertised, with bids closing on 2 August 2013 and the evaluations taking place in the week of 12 - 15 August 2013.

Present Status of Daff Fleet

On the IPV Lilian Ngoyi, the engine service had been outstanding since April 2012, when the vessel was handed over to the SA Navy.   Work on the engine had started in January 2013, and currently the SA Navy was waiting for an overhauled engine to be delivered from MTU SA.  This work was being run by the SA Navy and overseen by Damen. There had been delays, and as a result, the target operational date was end September.

On the IPVs Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) pre-registration surveys had been completed and the annual survey would be carried out in Cape Town.  A service on the main engine would be carried out for both port and starboard engines.  Registration on the SA Ships Register had been completed.  The final SAMSA surveys had been completed on 9 August 2013.  Fishery Control Officers (FCOs) had had to do two new compulsory SAMSA courses before they could be put to sea – the Proficiency Introduction to Survival Craft course and a Fast Rescue Craft course. The expected operational date was 23 August 2013.

On the OPV Sarah Baartman was awaiting dry docking until work on the Africana was completed, but most of the underwater valves had been replaced and outstanding valves below the waterline were to be done in dry dock, as was the painting of the hull and ship’s sides. The pre-registration surveys had been completed and transferred to the SA Ships Register. The estimated time in dry dock from commencement would be approximately 12 days, and the estimated operational date was end of September - pending the status of the work on the Africana.

Damen Shipyards had moved the Chase Boat: Florence Mkhize to their premises on 9 May 2013 to prepare her for sea readiness, and inspection had been carried out on the boat and engines. Water in the fuel and oil had been detected, so the engines would be replaced with outboard engines. Two service providers had submitted refurbishment proposals and design concepts, including a cabin.   The estimated operational date would be in November.

The clearing of Conditions of Class for the FRS Ellen Khuzwayo was in progress at Damen, and there were no major issues.  Pre-registration surveys were being conducted by Nautic operational staff to prepare for the SAMSA safety certificate surveys. The estimated operational date was 23 August 2013, meaning the DAFF research programme would be able to commence as scheduled.

The FRS Africana was currently in dry-dock in Simon’s Town undergoing major essential repairs by Damen.  The estimated total costs were in the vicinity of R12 million, which was to be sourced from the current vessel operating costs. The work had taken much longer than expected, because many new issues had arisen during the dry-docking and inspections. A list of issues and costs had been submitted, the work had approved and many issues had already been addressed. The target date for work to be completed in dry-dock was the end of August 2013 and the estimated operational date was the end of September 2013.

Contract with Nautic
Nautic had been appointed to deal with all logistic and human resource (HR) issues, and had sourced crews and officers for all the vessels.  Nautic had made strides in documenting the Ship Management System (SMS) which was an essential but complex requirement for the safety management of large vessels.  Beyond the efforts for prepare the vessels to be put back into class and in accordance with SAMSA, a pragmatic SMS had been developed and submitted to Lloyds Register for review.  The initial review had been completed and a number of observations had been made.  These now needed to be addressed in terms of technical management, crew management and Designated Person Ashore.

The SMS had been updated for another planned review by Lloyds in the week of 12-16 August.  It was anticipated that Lloyds, with the corrected updates, would issue an Interim Document of Compliance, thus enabling the Ellen Khuzwayo to sail.  This was in line with planned SAMSA activities and requirements. Even though the SMS had been submitted for approval, Nautic had already implemented the processes and procedures on board all the vessels, so that when the interim audit of Lloyds was conducted there would be an auditable process on board.

Fishing rights allocation process: 2013 state of readiness
During 2005/2006, the Department had embarked on the Long-Term Rights Allocation Management Process (LTRAMP).  In preparation for LTRAMP, the Department had published a general policy as well as sector specific policies for 20 commercial fishing sectors.  At the conclusion of the LTRAMP process, rights had been granted in terms of section 18 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998 (“the MLRA”) for periods ranging from two to 15 years.

In addition to LTRAMP, fishing rights had been granted in 2003 and 2005 in the abalone and large pelagics (tuna and swordfish) sectors, for ten years respectively. Fishing rights in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) prawn trawl, demersal shark, squid, tuna pole, hake hand line, white mussels, traditional line fish and oyster fishing sectors, had been allocated for eight years, and would expire on 31 December 2013.

The Department had published a revised general policy and eight sector specific policies on 15 April 2013 for public comment. Consultative meetings had been held at 14 venues along the coastline. These meetings covered the geographical area from Port Nolloth to Richard’s Bay in April. Included in these consultations were meetings with industry and small-scale fisheries associations. Consultative meetings were also held on the sector specific policies at 20 venues along the coast in May. All comments received by the Department by the due date had been considered.

The final general policy and the eight sector-specific policies had been translated from English into the other three coastal languages, namely, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and isiZulu. The policies, simplified application forms with accompanying explanatory notes and the distribution and receipting venues and dates, had been published in Government Gazette No. 36675 of 17 July 2013.

The application distribution process had started on 22 July 2013 and closed on 16 August 2013. Departmental officials had assisted applicants to understand the application forms and the process around the allocations. There were 15 distribution centres situated in relevant areas, and three additional centres in Struisbaai, Umtata and Port Edward were also opened for three days during the distribution process

Although the application forms had been simplified, officials assisted applicants with questions relating to the application forms, with written questions being responded to on a daily basis and a helpline. Also to enable equitable participation, no application fee was required to apply for fishing rights in any of the sectors. The application receipt process would open on 2 September 2013 and close on 13 September 2013. All the distribution centres would also function as application receipt centres, manned by Departmental officials on a full-time basis, during this period. Applicants would be able to submit their application forms at a centre close to where they resided.

To ensure an equitable and transparent process, an independent verification team (VT) was monitoring the distribution and receipt processes. The VT would also be responsible for verifying the accuracy of the information submitted by applicants and for setting up and handling an anonymous Tip-Off line. The VT would carry out detailed investigations of applicants, as necessary.

The Department would also be assisted by a qualified multi-disciplinary (legal, administrative, and auditing, etc.) independent assessment panel, which would provide support and assistance in the assessment and evaluation of applications for each of the eight fishing sectors. The delegated authority appointed by the Minister would be responsible for taking the final decisions in the allocation of fishing rights. All fishing rights would be allocated by 31 December 2013. Any appeal received would be processed and submitted to the Minister for a decision.

Proclaimed fishing harbours
There were 12 proclaimed fishing harbours that supported the fishing industry. The national Department of Public Works (NDPW) was the custodian of the fishing harbours and responsible for the infrastructure maintenance and repair, in terms of the Government Immovable Asset Management Act, 2007 (GIAMA). In terms of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), the DAFF was responsible for the day-to-day management of the fishing harbours in terms of Harbour Regulations 88 to 95.

In 2005, due to the fragmented management of the harbours, the Ministers of NDPW and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) had approached Cabinet to propose a new management model for the 12 fishing harbours. It had also been decided that to improve co-ordination, a Joint Harbour Steering Committee (NDPW, DEAT, Treasury) would be established with DEAT playing a leading role.  The DEAT had since been replaced by the DAFF.

Ernst & Young (E&Y) had been appointed to conduct a feasibility study on fishing harbours, which had been concluded in 2008. The Joint Harbour Steering Committee convened monthly and was currently responsible for the interim management of the harbours. 

Since the E&Y study, numerous consultations had taken place with relevant stakeholders, and to finalize the institutional arrangements for the fishing harbours, additional committees had been established -- an Inter Ministerial Committee (DAFF, DPW, NT) to provide guidance and political leadership on the process, and a Joint Working Committee, with the NT as the driver, to investigate the most appropriate management model.

There was a lack of qualified harbour masters in all harbours, and severe human resource shortage also resulted in crisis management. There was insufficient management /supervisory staff for effective service delivery. There were also inadequate and poor infrastructure repairs and maintenance by the NDPW, there was no skills retention plan for the workforce, and the harbour infrastructure was out-dated, with some harbours having been built in the 1920’s. There was non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and a lack of security, which resulted in criminal activities in the harbours.

Status of Aquaculture Hatcheries and Farms

There were 31 marine aquaculture farms that were currently fully operational -- 21 in the Western Cape, five in the Eastern Cape, four in the Northern Cape and one in KwaZulu Natal.

Of the 31 farms, four were government-funded and fully operational.  More farms would be getting government support through the Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme.  16 marine aquaculture hatcheries were in operation, most of which were in the Western Cape. There was also one government-funded marine hatchery in the Western Cape.

There were 161 freshwater aquaculture farms that were operational, most of which were in Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and Gauteng.  There were 30 Government-funded freshwater aquaculture farms in operation in Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. There were eight government freshwater farms that were not fully operational in Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng. There were 55 freshwater aquaculture hatcheries in South Africa, mostly in Gauteng. There were six government-funded hatcheries in operation, mostly in Limpopo.  In total, there were 11 Government- funded freshwater hatcheries that were not operational, most of which were in KZN.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) asked if the Department could provide the actual cost of repairing the vessels. Also there should be exceptions in respect of the certification of the Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge vessels, as they were needed in disaster situations, like the one in Knysna.  The whole process did not sound right -- there was an impending national disaster, and the State had the resources, but it was waiting on a piece of paper to protect the marine environment.

Mr Stevens said the final figure for the repairs would be confirmed after a meeting with the service provider to receive their quote. Also, there was nothing wrong with Victoria Mxenge any more.

Mr Van Dalen asked what was in the report and letter from the Public Protector, which had requested that a company be excluded from the tender process. He was surprised that such a letter existed, considering that he had laid the charge with the Public Protector and had no knowledge of the outcome. Considering that the Minister had stated that Smit Amandla was overcharging the state, among other accusations, were the costs of the new contract for the next five years going to be cheaper or more expensive, or about the same as the previous contract?

Mr Stevens said they did not have a letter or report from the Public Protector that said the current bidders ought to be excluded from the process. The official letter sent to the Minister informed the Department of a date when the Public Protector would release a report on the findings from the previous tender process, and had nothing to do with the current one. The Department had been asked to hold off the current process, as the findings from the previous one might offer some insight.

Mr Van Dalen said the forms had not been simplified -- they looked as they did five years ago. There were no forms in Afrikaans; forms were still available only in English. This was highly unacceptable, as fishermen were mostly Afrikaans-speaking, and had no education to understand the forms.  This was about their livelihoods. Also on the forms there were no closing dates mentioned -- the process seemed like an open-ended one. Furthermore, considering the MLRA had not been amended yet, nor tabled in Parliament, where the small-scale fishing policy would be incorporated in the MLRA, how could the rights be granted?

Mr Stevens said the issue with the forms seemed like a no win situation, though the forms had been reduced from 30 pages to seven pages people were still not happy. Forms were in English for application purposes, but there were explanation documents in other languages to simplify the form and the application process. However, for administrative purposes application was in English to ensure processing was manageable.

Mr Stevens also said in the advertising the issue of closing dates had been made clear. The Department could have had one prolonged process where applicants would pick up the forms and bring it back on the closing date. However knowing the difficulties in the fishing community, the Department split the process. There would be a phase to get the form and engage with the Department. Then the applicant would have time to fill it in and hand it back. The new approach hoped to be more user-friendly.

Mr Stevens clarified that there was no need to amend the MLRA in order to allocate the rights. There was a lot of confusion -- the route of allocating rights to the eight sectors had nothing to do with changing the MLRA. If the MLRA was not approved in Parliament, the rights could still be allocated. The five or six MLRA amendments had one purpose, and that was to empower the Minister to give full rights to small scale fishers. This was not included in the competitive process, where everyone could apply. No amendments needed for that, as the MLRA already empowered the Minister.  In 2011, Cabinet had approved the small scale fishery policy; there were 7 333 small-scale fishers (the majority of which were not in the Western Cape) that currently did not have rights but had annual permit exemptions granted to them. However, to grant them full rights, the MLRA had to be amended.  The amendment would not affect the commercial fishing side. If the MLRA was not amended, only Cooperatives would be removed from the application process.

The Chairperson advised that when the amendments reached Parliament, their legal team looked at them.  If the Department was to run a parallel process, would there be legal comebacks between applying on the current legal legislation, and not on the basis of future legislation. There needed to be a legal opinion from the Parliamentary legal team in that regard.

Mr Stevens said they had utilised the best legal minds in the fishing industry around the matter, and had also contacted the University of Pretoria and the Department’s legal team.   They were open to working with the Parliamentary legal team.

Mr Van Dalen said the public participation process had not been inclusive.  There were still very significant language barriers that prevented people from fully participating and understanding the proceedings.

Mr Stevens said he would be very happy if Members came on board to assist in the public participation processes.   However, it was not fair that Members ambushed their meetings, disrupted the process and abused officials. The public meetings were intended to explain any issues to the fishing communities, but some Members came to these meetings not to assist, but to abuse officials – and this was neither fair nor right.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked about the application receipt process.  The submission dates were between 2 and 14 September, which meant the time frame was too short to do the actual application, seek assistance and bring the form back.

Ms Steyn also expressed concern over the matter of having boats that were available to assist in the clean-up and prevention of oil-spill situations, but could not.   If they were ready, could the delay also be attributed the crew not being ready or trained. There should be a "plan B" for these situations.

Mr Stevens said an alternative would be for rescue vessels to be available through the DEA, as the custodian of the environment, to ensure that pollution was under control. The DDG could not say how many vessels there were currently in the country, or the number of people that had been trained.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE) said last year they had been told the vessels were ready, so the Committee could therefore not put trust in being told once again told that the vessels were ready and were going to sea. The problems that were still being mentioned, with Lilian Ngoyi for instance, had been problems that had been brought up since 2012.  Also the vessels shared similar technical problems, so why had they not been serviced at the same time?  With the vessels being out of service and standing still for so long, what were the impacts on the marine environment?  There had to have been an effect on research, for instance.

Mr Stevens said there were negative impacts especially in deploying resources to deal with poaching. However, the Department was working with other law enforcement agencies to combat this.  There had been no impact on research, as it still went on through industry vessels. The vessels were repaired -- they just needed the certification from SAMSA.  There was nothing wrong with them anymore.

The Chairperson said, regarding the simplification of the forms, that people had made contact with Members, asking where they could get help with the application.  Some had indicated that they would be making use of accountants. This was a clear indication that the forms had not been simplified. The middle person had to be completely cut out to minimise costs for the fishermen. The applicants mostly did not have the resources to consult lawyers.

The Chairperson also asked how the Committee would know about transgressors, for their oversight work. The Department had said there was room to improve in aquaculture projects -- was it deliberate that the focus or start was on the Western Cape, and not all the other provinces?  The perception was that fishing was the domain of the Western Cape, whereas there should be one head office to accommodate everyone having different offices throughout the country.  The Department should consolidate all the local offices, as there were few benefits in fragmentation.

Mr Stevens said the Department had a national focus and it just happened that the majority of aquaculture projects, that were primarily privately driven, were in the Western Cape.. The intention was to spread them throughout the country, but there was always the challenge of limited resources.

Mr Stevens said they took the advice that they had been given by the Chairperson regarding the application forms, that people in certain areas did not understand parts of the forms.  Regarding the issue of transgressors, the Department’s policy was very clear: if you had transgressed on your previous rights, then the system had multiple ways to pick that up, even if the individuals tried to reinvent themselves.

Ms Steyn added that the presentation mentioned that the IPVs that could not go out to assist stranded ships would be ready to do so by 9 August.  However that date had passed, and they still had not been deployed.

The Chairperson proposed that there be a coordinated approach when dealing with the oil spillage; this would bring together the Department of Transport, SAMSA, DTI, Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, DAFF, SALGA and law enforcement agencies. The intention of penalties for pollution was to ensure that in future shipping companies were wary of them, as currently the penalties were petty cash for some of them.

Mr Stevens said the mandate, regarding the oil spillages, was with DEA and SAMSA, and the Department had a support function role in dealing with oil spills.   If there were alternatives that needed to be found, they had to be addressed with the DEA. Also, two vessels were ready, but since the Department had been in front of the Committee, no one wanted to create a situation where the Department broke the law. SAMSA had said there was a new compulsory SAMSA course for the crew, which had nothing to do with the vessels themselves, but which had to take place before the vessels could sail. The vessels were repaired and ready to go to sea.

Mr Bhanga said the Committee had previously blamed the officials for the failures to protect the marine environment, so they could not therefore tell the Committee they now had more interest in the marine environment than the Committee. It was unfortunate that that comment had been made, as the Department had not done anything better, and for two years they had had vessels that were not sailing. Even today, the Department was not responding to some of the issues the Committee had raised on numerous occasions.

Mr Stevens apologised if it came across as though they were blaming the Committee. The two vessels that did not require any maintenance or engine work were Victoria Mxenge and the Ruth First. It would be illegal to sail the ships without certification.  Even to test sail them required special permission.

Mr Bhanga said that if there was nothing wrong with the vessels and they were ready to sail, why had the presentation still mentioned engine problems to be fixed and engines to be installed?  Fixing the Africana would be costly -- were there any plans for the State to intervene to replace it?

Mr Bhanga said there was a code of conduct for Members of Parliament, but it also had to be understood that Members had constituency responsibilities and had every right to attend the meetings. It was of great importance that small scale fishers were accommodated.

Mr Stevens said they welcomed Members’ attendance at any of their meetings, but the issue raised was how they treated each other during those meetings. The implementation plan for the small scale fisheries had been completed.  The next step was to consult on the plan with the small scale fishery constituencies and some of the Nedlac constituencies, to get an input.

Mr Stevens said interim relief would be to award exemption to the small scale fishers.  However, the Department was against interim relief. The Department rather hoped to grant full rights to the small scale fishers, and if all else failed, “plan B” would come into effect on 1 October 2013.  “Plan A” still remained to ensure that small scale fishers had long-term fishing rights.

Ms Steyn said she could understand the new requirements from SAMSA regarding the training. However, who else had vessels besides DAFF, and what would happen if no one went to look after the oil spills? There was a “plan B” regarding research, by seeking private sector assistance, but there was still no “plan B” for the issue of oil spills.  Were there no trained people in South Africa to be put on the ships, if they were ready to go out and assist?  Why wait for the people currently being trained and, most importantly, why were they being trained now if the deadline was in August, and not before?

Mr Stevens said the Department had met with the industry to give a briefing on the status of the vessels, and had dealt with the possibility of things not falling into place. For instance, if the Africana was not ready by October, there were alternatives.

Ms Steyn said the application form process for fishing rights was even more confusing.  The questions were certainly not easy if people still had to consult someone to assist them with the application. The questions might be easy, but if English was not the applicant’s first language they would still struggle.   The forms should have been printed in the four languages. Acquiring the application form was like a state secret, though understandable, with issues such as fronting, but an individual could still not go and get a form to see if they were interested or not.

Mr Stevens clarified that it was not the intention to come across as though Members or any citizens were not allowed get the forms to see if they were interested in applying.  All South African citizens, whether they stayed at the coast or not, could apply for fishing rights.  The application form was not a secret, but applicants had to have a receipt number allocated to the form. People were allowed to collect forms for others in very strict conditions, as that was how the problem of fronting had come about. It was understood that some people did not have the means to fetch the forms during the collection period, so someone could collect them on their behalf, but they had to have a letter giving authority to collect the form on another’s behalf.  

Ms Steyn said the deadline was still an issue.   It was a lengthy process for some people to complete the document, and there should be an option for someone to return it on their behalf. She supported the proposal for the Committee to have its own legal advice on the MLRA, and the current policy situation and the process. As insignificant as the change may be to the DDG, the Committee still had to look at every word in the amendment and its impact.

Ms Steyn said that previously the Committee had asked for a full list of where the aquaculture projects were.  Farms in the Free State had been visited by the Committee, but they were not on the list in the Department’s presentation. Also in the Gariep Dam hatchery farm, was there an agreement between the Chinese and South African government for the handover of the building that had been standing unused for 18 months, and what would it be used for? 

Mr Stevens confirmed that the Gariep Dam was now a fully functioning hatchery, and would work as a demonstration and a training site. There was an agreement signed by the Chinese government, and the Minister would also be signing.

Mr Van Dalen said the Department was blaming SAMSA for the ships that were standing in port and not being used, whereas SAMSA was blaming the Department.  What exactly was going on?   

Mr Stevens said it would be very inappropriate for the Department to say that SAMSA was lying; they were a very important partner of the Department, andt they worked closely with them. SAMSA was the authority that provided the certification for any vessel that sailed on South African waters. It would be illegal for the Department to even test sail vessels from Simon’s Town to Cape Town without a proper exemption for that day from SAMSA.

Mr Van Dalen was angered that the DDG regarded the MLRA amendment as a "small thing.”  The Committee had proposed that close corporations (CCs) be excluded from the process, and that had been supported by Parliament, as CCs created an opportunity for some parties to take advantage of others. However the Department had included CCs in the process.   Mr Van Dalen asked why the Department thought they knew better than Parliament. Also, harbours should be handed over to local government (as per the Constitution), as the Department had clearly failed but did not want to hand over control.

Mr Stevens clarified that they had submitted the MLRA to Cabinet, but Cabinet had not given approval. Cabinet would speak about the amendments and the way forward. The legislative amendment was fundamental to the Department, and although the initial proposed changes had been reduced from the initial draft to five or six amendments, they were not minor. They were crucial in ensuring that small scalel fishers had a long term survival in the industry.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said officials must accept that Parliament had a responsibility. It was Parliament that approved the budgets, and supported the Department's call for more funding, so Parliament had to make sure the budgets were spent accordingly. The Department was in no position to be arrogant to Committee Members, and needed to show more humility. The Department had said the vessels were ready to set sail but had no certificate for seaworthiness. That was a smoke screen, as a certificate was not a foolroof guarantee that there would be no problems with the vessels. Mr Abram asked exactly who had to test the vessels for seaworthiness -- surely the people who worked on fixing them should also be qualified to do the tests and certificates?

Mr Stevens apologised if he came across as dismissive and undermining the role of Members of Parliament. He said it would be illegal for the state to send vessels out without the required certification, and would thus set precedence for other private parties.  However, they had asked for exemptions, considering they were State vessels and were doing a service to the country.

Mr Abram said there were 12 proclaimed fishing harbours per the report, but like many railway stations, they were not fully there anymore and operational. There had to be an infrastructure budget to ensure they were upgraded.  If the harbours were to be used as harbours of activity, they had to look like they were hubs of activity. Regarding the aquaculture enhancement programme run by the DTI, he asked how many fishermen and companies had been assisted by the DTI, as the Chairperson had said there needed to be collaboration between Departments.

Mr Stevens said aquaculture was a priority to them, hence the partnership with the DTI. There were currently four newly approved projects that aimed to create 300 jobs.  The projects would cost around R30 million.  The DAFF and DTI had had road shows that explained how the partnerships worked for those that were interested in aquaculture farming.

Mr Abram said the Africana was in an advanced stage of disrepair.  The cost of refurbishing or replacing it had to be examined.   Had the Department done that to make an informed decision?

Mr Stevens said it was correct to say the Africana was very old. The Department had made compelling arguments to replace the vessel.   If the repairs were to start now, the Africana would be able to do work in four to five years’ time, and the estimated cost of repairs was around R900 million.

Mr Abram said the tender process needed to be clarified. It was hoped that small scale fishers were empowered to one day become enterprises.   With job losses being reported regularly, there had to be a balance created between development and reducing job losses.

Mr Stevens said they could not say how much the tender contract would cost, as it was still an on-going process, but the management cost of the vessels was R118 million a year. This meant that the Department received a budget of R118 million to manage the vessels. The information was on the Department’s reports.

Mr Abram said Cabinet had already approved the amendments to the MLRA.  What was the timeline for the implementation?  The Department had already lost too much -- 2013 was almost over and still they had legislation that needed to come to Parliament to be passed.

Mr Van Dalen said the Department had mentioned road shows they were to hold.  However, the Minister had already mentioned that the Cabinet had approved changes to the MLRA, so what was the point of public participation if a decision had already been made.

Mr Van Dalen said it was apparent that the Department did not have time to do everything as far harbours were concerned, and proposed that the Department hand over the responsibility. Also there was a fishing community in Mitchell's Plain that had no place for their boats.  The Department should make a better effort to accommodate those people.

Mr Stevens said regarding harbours there was a joint Committee comprising the Department, Treasury, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape premier’s office, and there was a draft report out on how the harbours were to be managed. The Department had clear interest in maintaining the fishing character of the harbours, and  in implementing the best model to keep the fishing communities in those communities alive to avoid job losses.  The Department was aware of the fishers in Mitchell's Plain, and was working with them.

Ms Steyn said the application process was matter of a person's livelihood, so the language issue was important. Also the statement about SAMSA was not convincing, as the training of personnel could not have been the only factor holding personnel up. Regarding the trip taken by the Committee to the Gariep Dam, there appeared to be no work being done there -- if there was, it must have been a very small scale operation. She questioned when the Minister had signed the contract.

The Chairperson said there were three fundamental areas that needed to be looked at, going forward.  These were the legislation issue, collaboration between Departments (transport, environmental affairs and law enforcement) and SALGA, to deal with disasters in the national sea waters, and the need to rally behind the Department to support the initiative with the Africana, considering the great work the vessel had to do.

Mr Van Dalen said that considering how SAMSA operated, especially on big sophisticated boats like the ones the Department had, it would take weeks to get everything ready. The Department had to clarify when they applied for certification. Also the Minister had made an announcement that the amendments had gone through Cabinet and had been approved, so the road shows were again another wasteful process.

Mr Stevens said it had taken five to six years to consult with the relevant stakeholders with regard to the policy.   The agreement had been that once the implementation of the small scale fishery policy had been developed, the Department would engage the communities again and those were the road shows that were scheduled for the coming weeks. The Department had had numerous public participation processes involving about 6 000 people in the many stages of the policy.

Ms Steyn said she was not convinced regarding the SAMSA process.  Could the Committee assume that the vessels had been approved to sail by SAMSA, and that the only hold up was the training of personnel?  If the two went hand in hand, that explanation was not convincing,

Mr Stevens said the SAMSA process and the vessel issue were interrelated. The vessels could go to sea only if the personnel had gone through training.  The current personnel had previously been trained, but had had to go for further training. SAMSA would then have reviewed their participation and would have given the green light from there.  There was no more work to be done on the vessels.

Mr Bhanga proposed that everyone be practical. As the Department had said, the marine vessels would be sailing by September, so the Committee should be given the exact dates so they could be there when the vessels were supposed to sail.  

Mr Stevens said the vessels’ sailing dates depended on their release by the service provider, and whether they still needed any parts, but the dates were estimated to be end of September.  The Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First would most certainly be sailing on the provided dates

Mr Bhanga interjected that the dates could not be fluid, there had to be actual dates so that the Department could be held accountable. The Department had been singing the same tune about the vessels for years.   The vessels could not still be said to be dependent on certain things before being sent to sea.

The Chairperson raised the issue of Smit Amandla and the general service agreements. The boats that the Committee had to go see in Simon’s Town -- no one had any records to show the state the boats were in before and after repairs. No one could be held accountable without that documentation.

Mr Van Dalen said that they had been looking for that documentation, as Smit Amandla had delivered an operating boat but it had been left unused for so long that it had degenerated. There needed to be a report from Smit Amandla and the Department when a boat was delivered at each point.

Mr Abram said the Chairperson was correct in saying that one needed to go deeper into the issue of what happened in the handover of the vessels.   A culture was developing in the country where the State could be losing not millions, but billions of rands, yet no one was truly held accountable. Departments needed to ensure that the State was getting its value for money. Also, the people who had to explain the application forms to the fishers needed to be in tune with the people and their backgrounds, and fully understand their needs.

The Chairperson emphasised again that going forward there needed to be more cooperation between Departments, as the fragmented state that currently existed was not satisfactory. He instructed the Department to send an invitation to the Committee at the beginning of October to see the two vessels sail.

The Chairperson said overall the session had been very fruitful, though it was a work in progress. Though there were many challenges, work was being done to overcome them. The language issue continued to be a great challenge, as it would be worrying if people found it impossible to participate in the application process.  Regarding the vessels finally sailing, the Department had to submit a report on their meeting with SAMSA.

The meeting was adjourned.

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