Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela believes no court of law is likely to conclude she was irrational in finding that Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson had acted recklessly in the awarding of a tender, her office said on Monday.

“The Public Protector further firmly believes that no court of law is likely to find that with the facts before her, she was irrational in finding that the minister acted recklessly and improperly,” said spokeswoman Kgalalelo Masibi in a statement.

This was in respect of in respect of preserving the sea patrol and research functions of the department of agriculture.

Joemat-Pettersson was taking the public protector to court to challenge her report on the tender to manage the state's fishery vessels.

Masibi said Madonsela commended the minister for respecting the rule of law by seeking to get a higher authority to review her decision.

“She 1/8the public protector 3/8 however believes the action is premature as the president has to apply his mind to the report and decide what to do with it.”

Joemat-Pettersson told a media briefing in Cape Town on Sunday, “I will be asking the North Gauteng High Court to declare that the report including the findings and recommendations, are reviewed, corrected and, or, set aside.”

Papers were served on Madonsela on Friday, according to Kanthi Nagiah, the head of legal services in the department.

Joemat-Pettersson said she was launching the legal challenge because Madonsela refused to reconsider her findings that the minister was guilty of improper conduct and maladministration in regard to the tender.

Madonsela had responded that her findings were final, the minister said.

“The Public Protector further advised that if I wished to challenge the findings, I should engage the president or subject the report to legal review,” she added.

“I am thus following the advice of the Public Protector by taking the report on legal review.”

In her report, titled “Docked Vessels” and released on December 4, Madonsela recommended that President Jacob Zuma consider disciplinary action against the minister.

This was due to Joemat-Pettersson's “reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry in South Africa, alleged decimation of fisheries resources in South Africa and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research.”

Madonsela said the director general in the presidency should chart a course for taking action against Joemat-Pettersson within 30 days.

Her probe followed a complaint from the Democratic Alliance.

The DA asked Madonsela to probe the awarding of an R800 million contract to the Sekunjalo consortium to manage the department's fleet of research and patrol ships.

The contract was later withdrawn.

Joemat-Pettersson said she had consulted two senior advocates who supported her view that it was wrong of Madonsela to find her “guilty” early in December of delaying quota allocations when the deadline to issue these were only at the end of that month.

Joemat-Pettersson refused to say whether Zuma had raised the report with her, firmly stating that their discussions were not the subject of Sunday's media briefing.

Her announcement came before Madonsela was due to release her long-awaited report into the refurbishment and security upgrades at Zuma's home in Nkandla on Wednesday.

The department launched a tender process in 2011 before Smit Amandla Marine's contract to manage the vessels expired.

Smit Amandla complained that documents in which it tendered for the new contract had been leaked to the rival Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium.

The department had awarded the deal to Sekunjalo but subsequently withdrew it and ordered Smit Amandla to hand over the management of the vessels to the navy in less than a month, which drew a rebuke from Madonsela for the “abrupt” handover.

The navy was unable to keep the fleet seaworthy, forcing the department to issue an emergency tender to restore them to that state.