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Archive for September, 2012

West Cape News Reports on State of DAFF

The West Cape News reports on the state of the Department of Fisheries and its hopeless Minister of Fisheries.

The article reports that “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.”

Read the full article here.

Noseweek Article on the "Terrible Twins"

The September edition of Noseweek has an article on the terrible twins – the Minister of Fisheries and ANC cadre, Iqbal Surve.

The article states that “Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, is eager to favour a fellow ANC multi-millionaire, Dr Iqbal Survé, with a R1-billion tender opening a window on all that’s wrong with the Zuma government.

Her appointment and continued survival in government, despite her obvious incompetence and shocking manners, is widely attributed to her having positioned herself as the ultimate Zuma loyalist.”

Click here for the full article.

The statement below was issued on 25 September 2012 by the Democratic Alliance.

A parliamentary visit to Simon’s Town Naval Base on Friday revealed that the state’s marine patrol and research vessels were going nowhere slowly, or so it appeared. But while the fisheries portfolio committee was being briefed by Navy and Fisheries officials, the Algoa sailed away from under our nose. 

In a bizarre twist of fate, Smit Amandla has been appointed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to take operational control of this research vessel. But this is the multinational company against which Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson claims she has prima facie evidence for corruption. They had held the contract to operate and maintain all state-owned marine patrol vessels for ten years until November last year The contract was controversially handed to politically connected Sekunjalo Consortium and then withdrawn under dubious circumstances. 

I have today written to the chairpersons of the Defence, Fisheries, and Environmental Affairs committees to call all three ministers to parliament to account for how this came about. They must also give an account of what the plan is going forward from here. I will also be submitting a number of questions to Minister Joemat-Pettersson:

  • Did the Memorandum of Understanding governing the arrangement between Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Navy provide for the transfer of the Algoa and the Africana to the Department of Environmental Affairs?
  • Why did officials wilfully deceive elected members of parliament into believing that these ships would probably not sail until the end of the year if provisions had already been made for their transfer back to Smit Amandla?

Reports indicate that this arrangement between Fisheries and DEA was made five weeks ago. Apparently the Africana is due to follow shortly. Meanwhile, officials sat poker-faced and lied to the portfolio committee claiming that none of the vessels were sufficiently seaworthy to carry out their functions. In a presentation to the Fisheries Committee on 11 September, the acting DG and the Acting DDG of fisheries failed to mention anything about the transfer of vessels to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Or they were lied to by their ministers. Just who is lying to who must be revealed.
It would appear that senior Naval and Fisheries officials deliberately misled and lied to members of the Portfolio Committee of Fisheries during their visit to Simonstown on Friday 21 September 2012. 
These officials appear to have deliberately misled and/or lied to the MP’s with respect to the following – 

  • That Smit Amandla was re-appointed to take operational control of the Algoa research vessel. It is understood that the Africana will follow suite shortly. It appears that these procedures were put in place some 5 weeks previously. This despite the Fisheries Minister’s bluster that she had prima facie evidence that Smit Amandla was involved in corruption and that the matter was being investigated by the SA Police. The Minister’s statement is in fact still on the DAFF website; and
  • The status of the vessels. It is apparent that the officials deliberately painted a false picture of the state of apparent vessel disrepair and deliberately failed to inform the MP’s about the fact that the Algoa was being sailed out of Simonstown harbour under the operational control of Smit Amandla crew probably while the MP’s were in the harbour.

We must surely be gravely concerned that senior civil servants are able to willfully deceive elected members of parliament. We also point out that Fisheries officials led by the Acting DG and Acting DDG of Fisheries appeared before the Portfolio Committee on 11 September 2012 and during that presentation deliberately failed to mention anything about the transfer of vessels to the Department of Environmental Affairs.
We sincerely trust that the Portfolio Committee will urgently hold a special meeting where the senior Naval and Fisheries officials who were present in Simonstown before the Committee on 11 September 2012 are held to account and explain their deceit. We trust that the Portfolio Committee will report their conduct to the Public Service Commission and demand their dismissal. We cannot rely on the fisheries minister to act.

Breaking News: Research Vessels Under DEA

Feike has been informed that the Department of Environmental Affairs has taken back control of the fisheries research vessel, the Algoa. And the Africana will follow shortly. Both vessels have been removed from the naval registry and are back on the SAMSA civilian vessel registry. 
In what is a clear indication of how incompetent and damaging the fisheries minister has been, Environmental Affairs has been able to get the Algoa sea-ready and sailing in about 7 days. The Algoa actually sailed from Simonstown on Friday, 21 September 2012, the day the Fisheries Portfolio Committee visited Simonstown to inspect the patrol and research vessels. 
And in a further indictment of the destructive, petulantly childish and personally vindictive behaviour of the fisheries minister, Environmental Affairs got the Algoa sea-ready in a week under the crew and operational leadership of Smit Amandla – the company against whom the fisheries minister has launched a personal vendetta and laid (what we believe are fictitious) criminal charges.  
What this fiasco has demonstrated is that the fisheries minister’s vendetta against Smit Amandla has cost and continues to cost South Africa its fisheries biological diversity. We continue to not have any fisheries patrols and we have lost critical research cruises. 
We believe that the fisheries minister ought to be held personally liable for the massive financial damage caused to South Africa’s marine and coastal environment. She certainly has a case to answer.

And there is now little need or justification for the continued existence of the fisheries branch under the control of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, unless their mandate is to continue to destroy the South African commercial fishing industry. 

Environmentalist, Laura Law, wrote on Feike’s Facebook page that she opposed the Western Cape government’s decision to permit farmers to kill certain predatory animals (caracals and jackals) in a bid to protect agricultural livestock. Laura holds the view that there are alternatives to the present scheme of permits that authorise farmers to kill a specified number of these predatory animals.

Feike offered Laura our BLOG platform to publish her views on the possible alternative methods to the current predator management scheme implemented by the Western Cape government. Here are her views on the subject. We note that these views and opinions do not reflect the views or opinions of Feike.

The “Bredell Cull” commenced in July 2011 and came about after DA Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, allegedly pressured CapeNature into issuing 480 farmers with blanket permits to kill up to ten predators per day over a six month period. This was described by Dr. Bool Smuts of the Landmark Foundation as “the largest cull of bio-diversity ever sanctioned by a government entity in the history of the African continent”. The permits collectively total close to 900 000 animals, consisting mostly of jackal and caracal. As justification, Mr. Bredell has asserted that estimated stock losses amount to R1.7 million per annum, and farmers have to carry these losses themselves as they are not compensated by the government for stock predation.

“Call and shoot” hunting (which has been prohibited in the past), as well as night hunts with the use of artificial lights, gin traps (which kill 20 non-target species for every target predator killed, and are banned in over 90 countries), trap cages, trained hound packs, and helicopters are now sanctioned methods of killing. Thankfully, farmers have recently agreed to cease using poison. According to research by the Landmark Foundation, alternative methods of predator management have proven to be more effective and significantly less expensive.

ANATOLIAN SHEPHERD DOGS
The most well known of these non-lethal methods is the use of Anatolian Shepherd dogs as livestock guardians. The Landmark Foundation, Cheetah Outreach and the De Wildt Cheetah And Wildlife Trust all run extensive programs in South Africa whereby these dogs are being introduced to farming areas experiencing losses due to predation. The effective use of these dogs is a result of an intensive and very specific training and socialisation process,centered around the dogs bonding with the flock, and starting before the dogs reach their third week of life. This is when the olfactory (smell) bonding and socialisation development period begins, and is the most important developmental stage in the sensory bonding process.

If applied correctly and with the necessary dedication of the farmer, an improvement of up to 90% in the control of predation can be achieved. Reported problems by farmers include the dogs chasing or killing lambs and other wildlife, and the dogs wandering away from the flock in search of the company of other dogs. Both of these elements are dealt with in the rigorous training and socialisation program and can be considered as a failure of the farmer rather than the dog.

ALPACAS
A lesser known alternative involves the use of Alpacas, which belong to the Camelid family and are primarily fleece-producing animals. They originate from South America and are closely related to the Llama.

As with all Camelids, they are gregarious (social animals who live in groups), intelligent, hardy and possess a very strong herding instinct. They will instinctively run down an intruder and can use their front legs to stomp on it or their hind legs to kick. Males develop sharp fighting canines and both sexes will spit as a form of intimidation. They also sound an alarm in the form of a high-pitched sound which could alert the farmer to the presence of the predator.

These animals can reside with the herd permanently or be used intermittently and are particularly valuable during lambing season. It is essential that they are introduced to the flock at least 6-8 weeks prior to lambing.

Being ruminants and browsers, they do not require any additional feeds and will live off the veld with the sheep or goats. With a lifespan of 20-25 years and able to withstand harsh conditions and extreme temperatures, they are a good investment to any farmer.
In addition to their value as guarding animals they also offer an extra source of income to the farmer, yielding a high quality fibre with excellent thermal qualities and devoid of lanolin.Having a dry fleece means that maggots are not a problem and treatment in that regard is not necessary. Fleece quality is reported to be equivalent to cashmere, fetching prices of up to R300/KG.

They are a convenient guarding option to farmers, as no extra facilities are needed for their introduction and existing operations can continue as before. Australia has been utilising Alpacas for over 10 years and results show an increase in lambing percentage of 10-20%, and an improvement of 80-90% in stock losses. Alpacas are effective against caracal and jackal specifically, but their effectiveness with larger predators (such as leopard and cheetah) is unproven. The recommended ratio is 2 Alpacas to every 250 ewes on 250 hectares and that they run in pairs.

As flocks are still being bred-up in South Africa after their introduction 5 years ago, their availability is currently limited.

DONKEYS
Donkeys can similarly be used to guard livestock and have even been used in parts of Kenya to guard cattle against lions, proving themselves very effective in chasing predators and other intruders from their territories. They are naturally more alert and aware of predators than cattle and will instinctively gravitate towards- and remain with- the herd. Donkeys are hardy animals, requiring no additional feeds or expense.

Mares are preferred to stallions, who may become aggressive during breeding. Mares are also extremely protective of their foals, so a mare with a foal would be an added advantage. Foals should be raised with the livestock they are to protect and kraaled with the livestock at night, where possible.

Switzerland has successfully used donkeys to protect livestock from the European wolf and lynx.

HERDSMEN
Once commonly used by farmers to protect livestock in the field, herdsmen have all but disappeared since farms became more extensive and labour cost and practices changed. Reverting back to the use of herdsmen would also be a great tool in the creation of jobs, and added incentives -such as profit sharing and partnerships- would mean a greater dedication and enthusiasm towards the safeguarding of the flock.

COLLARS
There are various collars available, either providing an alarm system, a physical barrier or a deterrent to predators.

The “Veldwagter” collar works with a motion-sensing device, which sends an alert to the farmer when there is excessive movement (fleeing from a predator) or after a prolonged period of inaction (if the animal dies). These need only be fitted to a few members of the flock. This system has been utilised by over 500 farmers, who reported reductions in stock losses of more than 90% on average.

Collars providing a physical barrier to the predator’s bite operate on the premise that the predator will learn that collared animals are not easy prey. Predators such as jackal, may adapt their attack techniques to bite and kill livestock other than by asphyxiation, but reported losses have shown an 80-100% decrease with their use.

Bell collars have shown a mixed success rate. They are fitted to every member of the flock and make a noise if the flock start to flee. This startles the predator, who abandons the attack. These collars can also be useful in identifying individual problem predators. The collars can also be fitted with scent devices which also serve to deter predators. In addition to this, poison collars have also been developed to remove habitual livestock predators.

FENCING
Predator-proof fencing can also be used to safeguard livestock, and agricultural fencing subsidies are available to farmers to offset the massive expense involved (around R15 000 per Km). Cats can easily clear these fences and it is imperative that regular patrols are undertaken to secure any breaches.

LIVE TRAP CAGES
Live traps are devices which contain the animal without causing any significant injuries, allowing for the relocation of an offending predator or the release of a non-target animal. Over a period of 4 years, 17 leopards have been rescued in the Baviaanskloof area using this method. Captured leopards have been fitted with GPS collars in order to monitor their movements. In cases where the GPS information has proven that a specific leopard was indeed to blame for a loss, the farmers are directly compensated for that loss by the Landmark Foundation.

These traps have not proven to be successful with jackals,however. With almost every other species of problem predator, they have been highly effective and are strongly recommended by many organisations.

BUFFER SPECIES
As all wild predators show preference to naturally occurring prey, rather than livestock, the stocking of a herd of indigenous prey (such as springbok) as a “buffer” species for predators to prey on has also be found to be effective. This could also provide an added income to farmers in the form of a tourist attraction.

Many other herding techniques, such as kraaling, are also effective in combating predation and are too numerous to detail in this article. A multi-pronged approach, using more than one of the methods listed, proves to be the most successful approach. A study by the Landmark Foundation showed a saving of R97 500 by a farmer after switching to non-lethal controls (in terms of lethal control costs and loss to predation).

The removal of apex predators, such as leopards, has created an imbalance in predator relations. This has led to the proliferation of secondary predators, such as jackal. Hunting certain species -the jackal in particular- has actually directly increased the population of these predators. When a dominant female jackal is killed, the remaining lower-ranking females all come into oestrus. This results in a dramatic spike in numbers. With continued persecution, the females are maturing at a younger age and litter sizes are increasing. In the 1980’s, black backed jackal were reaching sexual maturity at 14 months and would have 3 pups per litter. At present, they are sexually mature at 7 months and are giving birth to 5 pups per litter. Kas Hammen, Executive Director of CapeNature, has admitted that hunting these animals is worsening the situation.

After 200 years of indiscriminate hunting by farmers, the fact that the problem not only persists but is growing exceedingly worse, should in itself be telling the farmers and government alike that this is not a viable solution. The government should instead be concentrating on developing and training farmers in existing non-lethal control methods as the alternative to a practice which is not only ineffective, but devastating to bio-diversity and the balance of our ecosystem. Dr. Quinton Martins of The Cape Leopard Trust has stated that 85% of our bio-diversity lies in the hands of farmers, meaning that responsible management on these privately owned lands is absolutely imperative if we wish to maintain any kind of ecological integrity in this country. 

South Africa: A Pariah Fisheries State

On 21 September 2012, members of the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries descended on Simonstown harbour to inspect South Africa’s fleet of once state-of-the art but now abandoned fisheries patrol and research vessels. 
We provide the press statement issued this morning by the DA’s Pieter van Dalen, a member of that Committee. What is apparent is that South Africa has collapsed from being a one-time leader in fisheries management into being nothing more than a pariah fisheries state, unable to undertake routine fisheries research and unable to protect our Exclusive Economic Zone as we are obliged to do under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. As the recent minor oil spill from the stranded Seli I indicated, we are also unable to ensure basic coastal and ocean pollution management and control. 
South Africa’s fisheries management has been singularly decimated by the Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the minister of fisheries and without doubt the worst minister responsible for fisheries… EVER. During the past week, Feike understands that the Minister has gone on a month’s stress leave and suspended and/or fired two more staff. It is understood the Fisheries Department’s spokesperson, Selby Bokaba, has been suspended and the Minister’s private secretary has been 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. 
The Department remains without any political or senior civil service leadership and there is less than 12 months to go before long term fishing quotas need to be allocated across 8 commercial fisheries. 
The press statement issued by the DA follows:

 A visit to Simon’s Town Naval Base on Friday revealed that the state’s marine patrol and research vessels are going nowhere slowly.

The patrol vessels have not once left the harbour since they were bestowed into the Navy’s care at the end of March. The DA warned that this would happen as far back as November last year. 

 The Navy argues that the vessels were not in sufficiently good condition to go to sea. Having seen the condition of the vessels for myself now, I can understand their concern. But the Fisheries department was equally defensive and argued that they operate under different standards. The Africana, for instance, spent 270 days at sea last year, leaving little time for maintenance. As far as they are concerned, qualified auditors had declared the vessels as seaworthy. However, it is clear either way that the Fisheries Department should have taken a keener interest in how the previous contract holders, Smit Amandla, were looking after these critical assets. It is also clear that the Navy see it as their mandate to patrol the shoreline and there was evidently a turf battle going on long before today’s meeting. In November 2011, Smit Amandla lost the contract they had held for the previous decade to operate and maintain these state-owned marine patrol and research vessels. 

But the R800m contract was then handed to politically connected Sekunjalo under dubious circumstances (currently the subject of a Public Protector Investigation). The DA ensured that the contract to Sekunjalo was withdrawn. But we also called for a plan to be established to ensure that the vessels still carried out their critical functions. The contract to Smit Amandla was then extended to the end of March 2012, but no clear handover plan was in place to ensure that the Navy received the vessels as a going concern. It was revealed at today’s meeting at Simon’s Town that DAFF and Navy officials were only made aware of the decision on March 22, 8 days before the end of the month. A MoU (and an associated Service Level Agreement (SLA)) was then drawn up, the details of which are not particularly clear (other than to state that the operation of the vessels would now be subject to the Defence Act (and their operations thereby classified). 

The MoU governs the arrangement for one year. This raises a number of critical questions which I will be putting to the ministers of both departments. First, the question of funding is crucial. As it stands, the Navy foots the bill for maintenance work, sends the invoice to DAFF and then waits to get paid. The Navy has essentially inherited an unfunded mandate. Moreover, the incentive to really invest in these vessels is unlikely to be high unless there is relative certainty that the vessels will be in Navy care for the foreseeable future. This raises the second question. What plan is in place to ensure the proper and effective functioning of these vessels beyond March 2013? Finally, research (for which at least three of the seven vessels are designed) is a civilian function. It is hard to follow the logic that would retain it under Navy jurisdiction. Patrols, however, can at least logically be assigned to the Navy, though the civilian officers that used to undertake those functions would now have to be retrained as Naval officers. The Fisheries Department should have had a clear plan in place. 

When the Sekunjalo tender was withdrawn, a new tender process should have been followed immediately. The problem could have been resolved by the end of 2011. Instead, thanks to Minister Joemat-Pettersson’s ineptitude, the Navy and DAFF bureaucrats have been handed a problem that shouldn’t have been theirs in the first place. With the Minister firing or suspending everyone in near vicinity to her, job uncertainty and staff morale must be at an all-time low.  

Unfortunately, I estimate that these ships are unlikely to leave Simon’s Town before the end of the year. Very few people can be blamed for this unacceptable state of affairs other than the Minister of Fisheries. She should, as on so many other occasions, have been the first to go.

Will Minister Pitch at PC Meeting?

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, (National Assembly) will be briefed by the Minister of Fisheries on the short, medium and long-term plans for the management of the Fisheries Branch, including the transfer of functions from the Department of Environmental Affairs to
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). The Minister will also provide an overview on the possibility of Seal Ranching.

The briefing will take place on 11 September 2012. Members of the industry are welcome and must attend at the Visitors Entrance on Plein Street, Parliamentary Precinct.

Venue: Committee Room E539, Fifth Floor, National Assembly Building, 09:00

We cant help but note that the Minister will be briefing the portfolio committee on the transfer of functions from DEA to DAFF only 2 years after the fact!

"Fisheries is an Absolute Disaster"!

A German website has reported that the South African fisheries department under Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson is mired in allegations of corruption and is an “absolute disaster”. It furthermore confirms the fact that there is rebellion in the air…

The article can be accessed by clicking here.

SAPA – FISHERIES PROBE HANDED TO POLICE


SAPA reports that the fisheries department has handed over an investigation into suspected internal maladministration and corruption to the police.

“The investigation is effectively out of the hands of the department and the minister,” the department’s acting director general Sipho Ntombela said on Thursday.
“Once complete, the SAPS [SA Police Service] will advise the department on appropriate actions to be taken.” In March, the department started an investigation into the awarding of a tender for the management and maintenance of the department’s fleet of research and fisheries patrol vessels.
The company, Smit Amandla Marine, had been providing the vessel management function to the government for the past decade. “The initial investigation was carried out by a reputable forensic firm which uncovered that there are possible cases of corruption in the fisheries branch,” Ntombela said.
“The investigation by the SAPS is a culmination of this process.”
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