Public Protector to probe alleged fishy business at fisheries dept

2018-10-02 20:04
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Antonio Muchave, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Antonio Muchave, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is to investigate alleged corruption in the Department of Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) after a request from chairperson of the Western Cape legislature's committee for economic development, Beverley Schafer.

This, amid questions over highly coveted fishing rights and the sale of confiscated abalone.

Commenting on the decision to launch a probe, Schafer said: "I welcome the swift response from the Public Protector's office, and call for the office to prioritise this investigation in the interests of the Western Cape's small-scale fisherman and women and the ongoing crisis in our province relating to abalone and West Coast rock lobster poaching."

On Tuesday, the DA's Schafer withdrew a statement that a high-ranking fisheries official had been found guilty after a disciplinary process.

She previously claimed that DAFF deputy director general Siphokazi Ndudane had been found guilty of multiple internal disciplinary charges related to catch allocations and the alleged sale of confiscated abalone.

However, she later said the statement was based on incorrect information made available to her.

Instead, she has established that the disciplinary process is still active, although it has been postponed to an undetermined date.

"I apologise therefore and for the inconvenience caused to the parties involved," said Schafer.

She added, however, that she would not withdraw the criminal charges she had laid at the Cape Town police station, based on the contents of the disciplinary procedures against Ndudane that were revealed in the recent World Wife Fund (WWF) for Nature court case.

The case in the Western Cape High Court was about reducing the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for rock lobster to protect the species, which is sold as an expensive delicacy, from being overfished. The WWF succeeded in getting the current 1 924.08 ton TAC for the 2017/18 season declared invalid after arguing it was too high. The new TAC for the next season is yet to be announced.

Further information on the criminal complaint was not immediately available, but DAFF spokesperson Khaye Nkwenyane said: "Ndudane is still at home on suspension pending the date given for commencement of her disciplinary hearing."

He added: "On the WWF case, the minister [Senzeni Zokwana] is engaged with [the] legal team. We are going to appeal the case."

"If we don't appeal, herein lies a danger against small fisheries and poor coastal communities who are benefiting from a raised [TAC] that [Zokwana] signed off which scientists through WWF are contesting."

Read more on:    public protector  |  busisiwe mkhwebane

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