Fisheries still not tranformed - Senzeni Zokwana

Minister says he is concerned by lack of entry by those who were previously disadvantaged to the industry


 14 July 2018

Transformation of the Marine Industry and Leadership Issues of the Department 

 A lot of issues have been in the public domain with regards to Fisheries sector. Since my appointment in the Department I made a firm commitment to drive transformation and diversify this niche sector which is dominated by established white companies harvesting our marine living resources. I have always been concerned by the lack of entry by those who were previously disadvantaged to the industry. The amendment of the Marine Living Resources Act has located firmly on the agenda the issue of transformation if the industry.

We want to see more Africans in general and blacks in particular participating as small scale fisheries at all levels as primary fishers, processors and marketers. Allocation of fishing rights to the previously disadvantaged section of our society is our priority. In this regard, I am pleased to announce the small scale fisheries initiative that we are beginning as government in partnership with companies such as Sea Harvest, Brimstone and Old Mutual Masisizane programme.

These companies have pledged a combined amount of R100 million to skill and expose emerging small scale fisheries into the sector towards commercialization. This will fast tract our transformation agenda. I am calling for all big companies in the marine space to follow this model and open themselves up to diversity, BEE and hand-hold the small fisheries from the previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Marine living resources are also part of the food security for our communities living along the coasts. We are addressing the issue of total allowable catch (TAC) in the shoreline for our communities residing along the ocean to fish in order to feed themselves. We are going to embark on an extensive coastal or fishing communities imbizo to educate and inform them about how to access permits to fish for themselves. We will also be educating them on how to harvest in the sea in ways that are not going to deplete our marine species. Access to fishing by poor communities will contribute significantly in food security and fighting poverty. We are already engaging with traditional leaders in rural coastal communities as part of rolling out public engagements. 

As a Minister, I am concerned about the scale with which abalone poaching in this country is rising with sophisticated foreign syndicates at play. I have been disturbed that' despite our marine guard efforts which has ensured that we capture the stolen abalones, that the these syndicates have succeed to infiltrate some of our officials who collude to smuggle it out of our stores where we keep it. We are dealing with syndicates with deep pockets who bribe their way through.

To mitigate this, I am looking at measures such as appointing service providers that will dispense captured abalone to our fishing communities and cooperatives than keeping them to our government stores. I have also engaged with the Minister of Environmental Affairs to exchange experiences of how rhino poaching is being dealt with so that we improve even more our efforts to protect this endangered species in our ocean. This also includes the poaching of our west coast and east coast rock lobster crayfishes.

Departmental Leadership Issues

A lot of negative media leaks have been reported in newspapers about what is term as tensions between the Minister and the Director General of the Department. The narrative has been one which has twisted the efforts made by the Department in addressing important projects that focus on combatting the abuse of the countries scarce marine resources.

It is open secret that the relationship between the Minister and the Director- General has long declined because of the disagreement in carrying out the instruction to charge officials implicated in the irregular awarding of a tender for abalone distribution. This refusal to charge these officials despite the forensic outcomes resulted in the minister suspending the DG. It is known that the High Court this year by the DG clarified the issue of powers to suspend and discipline an Accounting Officer as residing with the President. Consistent with that ruling, the matter of DG is being handled by the President.

I am currently addressing matters of senior managers recently suspended without the Minister being consulted especially the DDG for Fisheries. I have been consistent that any efforts to fight against any deviations and misconducts in the Department will have my full support, but as an executive authority I ought to be taken into confidence especially on senior officials like DDGs for my concurrence. I was particularly concerned to learn about these matters without being consulted. It is within this context that I recalled delegated powers from the accounting Officer as it amounted to the abuse of power.

I want to assure the public that despite this matter, the Department is hard at work. We have dedicated and professional staff that continues to work hard to change people's lives. We are appealing to the members of some sections of the media to desist from sensationalizing issues of the Department. The negative reporting that has been largely inaccurate has helped in creating a storm in the teacup; this exaggeration of challenges has also presented a false narrative as if my relationship with the Accounting Officer has affected work, which is not true.

Statement issued by Khaye Nkwanyana, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Spokesperson, 14 July 2015