Cape Town - Friday is D-Day for fisheries corruption.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has set the day as a deadline to receive final reports from officials and fishing giant Foodcorp, after which she’ll refer the issue to the public protector and the Special Investigating Unit.
The reports would be made public, said Joemat-Pettersson, and vowed heads would roll if there was even a hint that officials were corrupt.
Foodcorp and her department had both been ordered to table comprehensive reports on the matter by May 16, she disclosed on Tuesday.
Her undertaking follows a weekend newspaper report that about R50 million worth of fishing quotas, part of a controversial R445m deal, had been awarded to two companies allegedly without due public process.
The paper reported that Ulwandle Fishing and Freedom Fisheries had acquired fishing rights that had been with Foodcorp – a company that had been hauled before the Competition Commission for allegedly falling foul of BEE requirements for the Marine Living Resources Act.
Some of Foodcorp’s rights were sold to a consortium which included Ulwandle Fishing. Freedom Fisheries and Ulwandle Fishing allegedly received two of Foodcorp’s fishing quotas free of charge.
“I have proved throughout my term that I’m committed to clean governance and will not tolerate any decisions or transactions which undermine this. I requested an urgent investigation and a report from my department and I’ve also requested (the same from) Foodcorp.
“Should it show improper decisions were taken I will once again have to act. This will be the second time we issue letters of suspension from work,” she said and added that the Foodcorp deal had been managed by officials in her department
“A minister does not micro-manage. Certain responsibilities are delegated to the department, but the oversight function remains with the minister. So if there is any cause for concern, it is the minister who can revoke or cancel fishing rights.
“In the past I’ve been criticised for taking action against officials, and where there is collusion there must be action taken. I was not and will not be afraid to root out corruption.” she said.
She was committed to having small-scale fishers participate in the fishing industry and when her department wrote to Foodcorp about this in May last year, the company had undertaken to transfer some of its fishing rights, particularly its quotas for West Coast Rock Lobster and hake long line, to small and medium enterprises (SMME).
“Its the selection of the SMMEs that became a problem and this selection is being investigated. Who received quotas and were the quotas allocated in a transparent manner? If anything comes through the investigations pointing to corruption, it will be referred to the SIU.”
The Public Protector would also be approached.
Asked if her department did not need an overhaul she said: “We’ve been revamping and correcting mistakes from day one. Obviously officials are very hostile to investigations, but this about fighting corruption. This is the ANC fighting corruption.”
Department spokesman Lionel Adendorf said his officials had taken full responsibility for the Foodcorp deal
Joemat-Pettersson had not been involved in the quota allocation saga, he said.
Attempts to reach Foodcorp Group chief executive Justin Williamson drew a blank on Tuesday.