Response by DAFF on the issues raised by Small Scale Fishing Representatives: meeting postponed

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

29 November 2016
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC) and Mr P Maloyi (ANC)

Meeting Summary

The meeting was called to provide the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with the opportunity to respond to the issues raised from its recent engagement with small-scale fisherman. The Department indicated that it required more time to engage with the same stakeholders through a process that will ensure that they submit proposals to it on their preferred way forward. The Department had prepared a document that gave a sense of the issues but did not offer solutions. In additrion, the Director-General said that he had not seen the document and requested to have the document withdrawn. The document was sent without his knowledge and he therefore could not be interrogated on a document which he had not approved. He requested to be given more time to work on the issues raised by the stakeholders, and said that a participatory process was critical to the issues being sorted out successfully.

Members said that the request was understandable given the short time frame and the massive challenges that were raised in the previous meeting.They pointed out that the stakeholders are uncomfortable with the employees of the Department who were named and implicated in the Public Protector’s report but who are still employed in the Department and will most likely be continuing to work with them during the participatory process. An EFF Member said the fishing allocation was a problem and asked if the Department will go back to the drawing board during the participatory process and new fishing quotas will be granted and will the process include the suspension of current quotas.

The Committee gave the Department seven days to report back to the Committee on the responses that were raised, and the way forward on how the issues will be addressed and investigated within specific time frames. 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed everyone present. She read out the apologies on behalf of Inkosi Cebekhulu (IFP) and the Minister and Deputy Minister. The meeting was called to provide the Department with the opportunity to respond to the issues raised from its recent engagement with small-scale fisherman.

The Chairperson said she will be leaving the meeting and will hand over to Mr P Maloyi (ANC) because she will be attending the Speakers’ meeting where she is hosting the Chinese delegation. Members were invited to attend the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs which will be dealing with the issue of the sale of wild animals. The Portfolio Committee on Economic Development will be having a meeting to address the drought issue and members were invited to attend that meeting.

She handed over to Mr Maloyi to proceed with the meeting.

The Acting Chairperson handed over to the department to begin their presentation.

Presentation on Response to Complaints about Small-Scale Fisheries

Mr Mzamo Mlengana, Director-General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present. He noted that on the 25th of November 2016 the Department was addressed by small-scale fisheries stakeholders who articulated a number of issues which were a concern and many of them were emotional at the meeting.

The Department was mandated to go and work on those issues, and it became clear that the matter was too problematic and detailed to be dealt with by one party. The Department required more time to engage with the same stakeholders through a process that will ensure that they submit proposals to it on their preferred way forward. The Department had prepared a document that gave a sense of the issues but did not offer solutions.

The Director-General said that he had not seen the document and requested to have the document withdrawn. The document was sent without his knowledge and he therefore could not be interrogated on a document which he had not approved. He requested to be given more time to work on the issues raised by the stakeholders, and said that a participatory process was critical to the issues being sorted out successfully.

Discussion

The Chairperson asked the Director-General where the DDG for Fisheries was before the matter was discussed by the members.

The Director-General responded that the DDG was called by the Minister to Port Elizabeth yesterday. When he enquired in the morning about her availability, he was told that she was on her way back from Port Elizabeth. She will be part of the process as it goes forward.

The Acting Chairperson asked Members if they agreed to a postponement as requested by the DG on the basis that the meeting was short notice and the Department requires more time to deal with the issues.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that the request was understandable given the short time frame and the massive challenges that were raised in the previous meeting. She said that some of the questions which she raised in the previous meeting were not addressed and requested the Committee to address the challenges that were raised in the Public Protector’s report within the fishing sector. She requested the report be tabled in Parliament because many of the challenges which were raised in the report are the same challenges that the Committee was dealing with now, so the report would be a good point of departure. The stakeholders are also uncomfortable with the employees of the Department who were named and implicated in the report but who are still employed in the Department and will most likely be continuing to work with them during the participatory process. Another important issue that came up during the meeting was the issue of the fishers in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Imvelo Trust and the hostile situation that was there presently. There were urgent things to be attended to there to avoid shootings and fatalities. There should be an indication as to when the Department can be able to provide a report with the way forward.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) seconded the proposal to allow the Department to go and do a thorough work on the issues that were raised in the previous meeting to ensure a concrete report that will address the issues. The matter of the report will be dealt with, and if there was information somewhere that suggested wrongdoing then the Committee must address the issue and engage the report accordingly at a different time. He requested the Department to put some urgency into the matter as they have seen the levels of frustration that the communities are going through.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said that he wanted to know the scope of the investigation by the Department because it had bungled the process. Out of 200 applications at Vrygrond only 25 were granted, which had left 175 families without a livelihood. The fishing allocation was a problem. Will the Department go back to the drawing board during the participatory process and new fishing quotas will be granted? Will the process include the suspension of current quotas? How many of the people fully depended on the quota being granted for the sustenance of their families through fishing as a livelihood?

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) commented on the problem with fishing harbours where people settled and the state of fishing harbours report must also be looked at by the Committee because these harbours can provide employment for those who are not fishermen but can work to process the fish amongst other things. The fishing quotas are a historical problem for people who sold to the big companies and the quotas never came under review after years. The bigger companies should be looked at to find out how their quotas were allocated. The small-scale fishing policy must not be seen to be a grant that will solve all the problems, but only be seen as an interim measure otherwise it will not be sustainable.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Department has been given seven days to report back to the Committee on the responses that were raised, and the way forward on how the issues will be addressed and investigated within specific time frames. The immediate issues must be responded to within seven days, and the report must indicate how much time will be required for the issues that will require more time to be dealt with.

The meeting was adjourned.

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