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Archive for June, 2011

Branch Fisheries: The Extortionist

Is the Fisheries Branch of DAFF acting as an extortioner? Dozens of small-scale artisinal right holders have complained to Feike that they are being illegally threatened by DAFF with the non-issue of their fishing permits until they pay their levies.
An extortionist is commonly defined as a person (or organisation) who illegally uses their position of power to obtain property, funds or other assets from another. Which is exactly what DAFF is doing and they target small-scale fishers who they know they can terrify and who will run off to the ABSA around the corner and withdraw money and pay the extortioner, DAFF.
The law is clear. Payment of levies is only due to DAFF once they have issued an invoice that complies fully with the VAT Act. If they have not issued an invoice, the levy is not due and DAFF does not have the authority in law to withhold any permit or licence.
What makes DAFF’s extortion even more problematic is that its non-existent Minister confirmed in Parliament that her department does not collect any levy without first issuing an invoice (which Feike showed to be a lie and her department continues to prove their own minister as a deceiver) and Minister Joemat-Pettersson acknowledged that to collect a levy without having first issued an invoice is unlawful.
Having regard to the Minister’s statement to Parliament and her department’s ongoing unlawful and extortionist conduct, Feike is of the view that criminal charges must be laid against the Minister and her Deputy Director-General under the VAT Act. (We do quietly acknowledge that we simply cannot keep up with who is the current ACTING Deputy Director-General as we understand the last stand-in has already given up and returned to the cushy surroundings of Pretoria from where he hailed.)

Kader Passes On…

It is with profound sadness that we heard yesterday of Professor Kader Asmal’s passing. He truly did represent a generation of true heroes who always spoke truth to power. He was a member of the generation of leaders that represented the core historic values of the African National Congress, our Constitution and our Anthem. He was dedicated to the causes of democracy, the rule of law and equality.
We could not afford to lose him at this increasingly dangerous time in our political history as those who represent the very antithesis of what Kader and his generation stand for, now worryingly take centre stage of our increasingly racist, populist, unaccountable and intellectually devoid body politik.
Younger South Africans owe it to the memory of Kader Asmal to take accept the baton he passes on now.

Are You an Expert in African Fisheries?

Feike has been appointed by the African Union to design a fisheries experts database. If you or your organisation has undertaken any consulting work in Africa on fisheries and coastal management, and you wish to be registered on the African Union’s fisheries experts database, kindly contact Feike’s Shaheen Moolla by email.

The WSCD Appeals: Liar Liar?

The Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) of 12 June 2011 reports that after almost a year, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has yet to finalise her decisions for permits in the lucrative white shark cage diving sector.
The full article can be read by linking to http://capeargus.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx
The Minister’s response is essentially the usual sleight of hand; if not just plain dishonesty. When this issue of the appeals was last raised in March, her excuse was that she had only recently received the appeals and a process of information verification had been completed in February. And she stated that her decisions would be announced in a few weeks – that was on 24 March 2011! Guess what her nonsensical excuse is this time?
She is still apparently considering the appeals having received the “appeal documentation only in March” and “This meant “a lot of detailed work” including verification of the applicants’ assets and investments.” Unfortunately the Minister’s spokesperson must have “forgotten” that when the Minister was last quizzed about the state of the appeals process, she confirmed that the verification process was completed in February and she stated in Parliament that her decisions would be made known “within weeks”. Why the lies now? How long is a “few weeks”? And what exactly is the status of the appeals?
Does the Minister and her department simply not give a damn about this industry, the jobs it sustains or the international goodwill of the industry? We unfortunately see the same “don’t give a damn” attitude by the Minister of Fisheries.
We know that she has been “considering” no more than 35 appeals (which is not a substantial number of appeals). We know that the Minister received the appeal documentation in March and not recently. And we know that the information verification process was completed in February and is not ongoing.

THE MINISTER RESPONDS

The Minister, through her media liaison officer, Mr Selby Bokaba, has responded to the opinion piece published by me in the Cape Times on 3 June 2011. The Minister’s response is published in the Cape Times of 10 June 2011 on page 11.
The Minister, as can be expected, attempts to refute the various grounds upon which we motivate for an assignment of her powers to the Western Cape government. The Minister’s response however does not address any of the substantive issues we raise and in fact confirms that our inshore fisheries are in crisis and that a section 78 assignment under the Marine Living Resources Act is desperately required in order to rescue fisheries management.
1. The response confirms that all the senior management posts we referred to in our opinion piece are in fact filled on a temporary basis and that there has not been a permanent DDG of fisheries since the resignation of Monde Mayekiso in 2009. Accordingly, for almost two years, the fisheries branch under the current minister has been without a permanent head and accounting officer. The fact that the minister considers regular changes of DDG’s as a positive is alarming to say the least! The fact that none of the acting DDG’s had any fisheries management knowledge or experience appears irrelevant.
2. The response also confirms that the minister has never met with the fishing industry since her appointment in June 2009. The response does state that the minister has met with “fisheries management” on numerous occasions. It does not however explain why the minister remains completely out of touch with the realities of mismanagement on the ground. Perhaps the most embarrassing and concerning case is her false response to Parliament about her department’s illegal collection of fish levies without issuing any invoices – a practice which continues to this very day despite it being a criminal offence under the VAT Act!
3. The response furthermore confirms the crisis affecting our inshore fisheries but notes that “a plan is in place” to rebuild stocks such as lobster. Well, that is news to us all especially as the mismanagement of the interim relief lobster “sector” continues unabated and unchecked. One needs to only pop into one of the many west coast fishing villages to witness unregulated and unmanaged interim relief lobster landings. And the Minister intends rewarding the illegality and rampant overfishing yet again by increasing the interim relief TAC by another 50 tons.
4. The response does not dispute a number of damning failures including the fact the department failed (ie forgot) to re-allocate commercial fishing rights in the oyster and mussel sectors – sectors aimed at empowering rural women in particular.
5. The response alleges successes in the fight against illegal fishing but fails to provide any statistics yet baldly alleges that “poaching of abalone worsened dramatically” under “Moolla”. However if one has regard to the relevant statistics, the views of industry, academics and NGO’s in the fisheries sector at the time, then the minister will yet again be proved to be out of touch with reality. It is common cause that between 2003 and March 2005 the successes of the now defunct environmental courts coupled with the TRIDENT anti-poaching project yielded massive successes that included a 75% conviction rate and the collapse of two regional abalone poaching syndicates led by Marx (Overberg) and Ross (Eastern Cape). Both syndicate leaders received lengthy jail sentences and forfeited millions in assets and cash to the state. The minister fails to tell us how many syndicates have been collapsed or syndicate leaders jailed since 2005 (or since 2009). She also conveniently fails to tell us how many of the hundreds of poachers that are arrested, have been CONVICTED and sent to jail and how many in fact have simply walked free to continue poaching.
6. The use of the military veterans has not bolstered fisheries compliance as any right holder would testify. Just consider the examples of blatant poaching in Buffels Bay and Pearly Beach and the failure of the fisheries branch to even respond to right holder pleas for support. If one considers the latest budget for the fisheries branch (as we have on this blog), the parlous state of the marine living resources fund remains undeniable. Why does DAFF not publish the complete budget for the fisheries branch, including allocations for research, administration, compliance, management and vessel deployment? Further, departmental staff have themselves confirmed as co-authors of a recent 2011 publication on the abalone fishery that “…no stock rebuilding strategy, cooperative law enforcement and compliance plan had been announced.” The department simply does not have a compliance strategy or plan in place for inshore fisheries management.
7. Finally, the minister’s response makes certain personal allegations against me. For example, the response refers to me as a “self-styled sole fishery expert”. I have never styled or described myself as such. The Minister in fact described me as a fisheries expert in a memorandum to Cabinet where she used my advices and opinions to support a particular position of hers. She may want to refresh her memory in that regard. Secondly, the minister makes the bizarre statement that during my tenure at MCM, we were never supportive of artisinal or small-scale fisheries! The entire policy framework that is currently in force in South Africa was adopted by (an ANC) Cabinet (not me or Horst Kleinschmidt!). Further, this policy framework has ensured that of the 3000 commercial fishing rights allocated more than 2200 are exclusively allocated to small- scale commercial fishers; that their long term application fees were pegged at a few hundred rand (such as R400 for a 10 year lobster right) while a company like I&J paid in excess of R2,5 million for the hake trawl application alone! In addition, we did not provide right holders with the shocking levels of (mis)-management, (mal)-administration and disrespect that small-scale right holders are served on a daily basis.
Thirdly, it was her staff who approached me repeatedly for advice and assistance with regard to the management of abalone, the processes to be followed to reopen the fishery and for solutions to address the parlous state of her fisheries branch. If my views and opinions are so irrelevant and incorrect, perhaps Mr Bokaba could advise why in a recent email to me, he wrote –
“Shaheen,
We need to have a follow-up chat with a view to making serious changes in the way fisheries is being run”.


Feike understands that the Department of Fisheries (DAFF) is scheduled to brief the National Council on Provinces on the state of transformation in the fishing sector as well as a broader debate on DAFF’s budget vote.

The briefing is set for 15 June 2011 at 14h00.
The levy charged by the Department of Fisheries on commercial wild harvested abalone is more than R31/kg, which is about 10% of the landed value of abalone. The abalone levy is substantially higher (as a percentage of the landed value of the fish) than all other commercial fish levies. In 2003/2004 the abalone levy was increased from R6/kg to R25/kg in order to fund a dedicated abalone management and compliance strategy aimed at reducing abalone poaching.
The increase which was authorised by both the Minister of Environmental Affairs (who was in charge of fisheries – Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) at that time) and the Minister of Finance (as is required under the Sea Fishery Act of 1988) was premised and justified on the following bases:
1. The commercial abalone industry had been consulted and had largely agreed to the increase in the levy;
2. The increase was necessitated at the time to fund an important interdepartmental initiative to combat illegal harvesting of abalone. This interdepartmental initiative was dubbed Operation Trident and had an operational budget in 2004 of R18 million (or 20% of the entire fisheries compliance budget at the time);
3. Operation Trident involved the participation of the department’s of justice and safety and security. The justice department would provide specialised environmental courts in Hermanus and Port Elizabeth while the safety and security department would deploy an additional 70 police officers to the Overberg region who would focus efforts on combatting abalone poaching.
4. Due to the lack of budget provision by the departments of justice and safety and security for these additional costs, it was agreed that MCM would fund the establishment and operation of the environmental courts and the deployment of the extra police officials on an interim basis until the respective departments had properly budgeted for these extra costs.
The increase in the abalone levy was always intended to be a temporary but emergency stop-gap measure aimed at the immediate funding of Operation Trident. For reasons that were never explained to the public, Operation Trident was abruptly terminated by MCM in 2005. The environmental courts ceased to operate and the deployment of the 70 additional police officials failed to materialize. There is presently no form abalone compliance or management strategy in place justifying the current levy of more than R32 per kilogram.
It is now long overdue that the abalone levy be adjusted downward. To continue charging the current levy must amount to irrational and unjustifiable administrative action and therefore unlawful.