Oceans vulnerable as fisheries department fails to award patrol ship contract

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The Democratic Alliance has pointed out that marine resources on South Africa’s coastlines will be unprotected from the end of this month due to the failure of the fisheries department to award a contract to man and maintain state-owned marine patrol vessels.

Pieter van Dalen, the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that from the end of this month, it is unclear who will be doing the job. Media reports suggest that the current contractor, Smit Amandla, is in the process of scaling down their operations as their contract with the Department expires at the end of March.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has discussed the possibility of using the South African Navy to patrol the country’s coastline following the end of the current contract with Smit Amandla Marine. The Cape Times reports Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Langa Zita, as taking the matter further with Navy chief Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimu.
“Our coastlines simply cannot go unpatrolled given the immense potential for illegal activity and abuse of marine resources,” van Dalen said, adding that he will contact the department to explain its interim plan.

Agriculture department spokesperson Selby Bokaba said that patrol operations would continue from April 1 and that there “will not be any vacuum”. Bokaba added that the vessels will not be manned by Smit Amandla.
“Minister Joemat-Pettersson needs to take responsibility for this crisis. In November 2011 she announced that an R800 million tender had been awarded to politically-connected Sekunjalo Consortium to take over patrolling operations on South Africa’s coastlines. A subsidiary of Sekunjalo, Premier Fishing, has fishing rights on the South African coast. The contract would effectively have made Sekunjalo both player and referee over our marine resources,” van Dalen noted. The contract has since been withdrawn.

Last week Joemat-Pettersson called for an investigation into the awarding of R1 billion worth of contracts dating back to 2005 to man and maintain her department’s research and patrol vessels.

Business Day reports Joemat-Pettersson’s legal advisor as saying that Smit Amandla should be investigated as contracts were allegedly awarded without a tender process. She would also like to know more about a company called Pentow Marine, which is a Dutch associate of Smit Amandla.

In 2000, the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awarded Smit Pentow Marine a five-year ship and crew management contract, after a tender process. Although Smit Pentow Marine became Smit Amandla in 2005, a new tender was not issued in April that year but the original contract extended for another five years.

On Thursday Zita said that he would “like the authorities to investigate the context in which the relationship between Smit Pentow Marine’s and its then BEE partner, Dudula Fishing, was terminated and whether there was no corruption in the way in which Smit Amandla was brought in.”

Meanwhile, the Public Protector and the Competition Commission will investigate how Sekunjalo won the contract in November 2011.

The DA has also questioned the fact that Sekunjalo owns a 25% stake in Saab SA and that Sekunjalo is owned by Iqbal Surve, a frequent travel companion to President Jacob Zuma on state business trips. On December 24, 2009, Joemat-Pettersson met with Saab during her trip to Sweden, for unknown reasons and in June 2010, Sekunjalo Consortium CEO, Khalid Abdulla, announced that Sekunjalo would become a shareholder in Saab South Africa.

The company acquired an upfront equity interest in Saab SA, entitling Sekunjalo to 25% voting rights and a 5% economic entitlement. Sekunjalo would be entitled to increase its economic interest to a maximum of 25%, based on the performance of Saab over a five-year period. Saab CEO and president, Ake Svensson, said at the time that the transaction confirmed Saab’s confidence that “with Sekunjalo as a strategic partner, Saab will further strengthen its position in the South African market”.

Van Dalen said the DA would like answers as to whom the Minister met at Saab during her 2009 trip to Sweden; who accompanied her and whether or not Saab SA had anything to gain from the Sekunjalo tender.