Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says all officials of the Fisheries Management Branch will be subjected to state security clearance and vetting.
This follows the arrest of nine fisheries officials from Gansbaai on 05 March 2018 in connection with abalone poaching.
The officials allegedly colluded with abalone poachers by illegally selling back the seized abalone and escorting illegal abalone shipment.
The nine appeared in court along with eight abalone syndicate members on 07 March 2017, facing charges ranging from racketeering, corruption and defeating the ends of justice.
The case against all suspects was remanded to 14 March 2018 for the bail application, suspects remain in custody and more arrests are imminent as the investigation continues.
Minister Zokwana commended the police for the arrest of officials, noting that as the department fights those syndicates, they need to ensure that none amongst departmental ranks is found to be assisting the syndicates.
“A first step towards addressing this challenge; will be to subject all officials of the Fisheries Management Branch to state security clearance and vetting with immediate effect,” Minister Zokwana said.
The Minister noted that Gansbaai area is one of the main abalone poaching areas, and poached abalone is generally smuggled out of the country possibly through highly sophisticated organised crime networks.
He added that the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries appreciates the need to have officials who are fully committed and dedicated in delivering on the mandate of the department.