FISHING giant Oceana which had struck a R455 million fishing quota deal now being probed by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, welcomed the probe, but refused to comment, other than denying it had bribed officials.
The minister gave officials in her department, and another fishing giant, Foodcorp, till tomorrow to submit reports on the deal. If there was even a hint of corruption, she said dismissals would follow while the SIU and the Public Protector would be asked to investigate further.
This followed a weekend newspaper report that about R50m worth of quotas – part of Oceana’s R455m acquisition of fishing rights from Foodcorp last year – were awarded to two companies, allegedly without due process.
“We have noted that the minister has launched an investigation at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries into the transfer of certain fishing rights previously held by Foodcorp.
“We welcome the minister’s action and look forward to the outcome. At this time we believe that it would not be prudent to comment, save to state categorically that Oceana has never offered any incentive to any official to accommodate any transaction,” Oceana chief executive Francois Kuttel said yesterday.
Shawn Pattison, director of Freedom Fishing, one of the companies mentioned in the report, said there was nothing illegal about the deal.
Xola Mdabula, director of Ulwandle Fishing, which has a 25 percent stake in Oceana’s acquisition from Foodcorp said he too believed everything was above board.
“There was a buyer and there was a seller. We are not concerned at all because we believe there was nothing untoward about the deal. The department approved it and as far as we are concerned it is above board. If there is anything untoward... I want it to come out,” Mdabula said.
Foodcorp managing director Cliff Sampson confirmed Joemat-Pettersson had asked his company to table a report
“There is not much we can say, but yes we are clean. We don’t allocate fishing rights. These are not decisions for us to take. Allocations of rights are decisions taken by the department,” he said.