Confusion reigns over MCM

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Democratic Alliance environment spokesman Gareth Morgan says there is serious confusion in the national executive over control of fisheries. Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday Morgan asked which department of state was now responsible for marine and coastal management (MCM) and the government’s fleet of environmental offshore and inshore patrol vessels.

MCM had been part of the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) but this department was broken up last May by newly-sworn-in President Jacob Zuma. Environmental Affairs was then twinned with water to form the Ministry and Department of Water and Environmental Affairs headed by Buyelwa Sonjica. But Zuma also split the former Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs, creating a new Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries.

The result has reportedly been a year-long “turf war” between the to departments on where the MCM division of the former DEAT should resort. “Madam Minister, what exactly is happening with the transfer of fisheries-related functions?” Morgan asked Sonjica during the Parliamentary debate on the environmental budget.

He noted that a Presidential Proclamation was signed early this year which provided for the transfer of approximately 80% of the functions that the environment department was previously responsible for managing, to the agriculture department. Both during the presentation of the budget to the portfolio committee and during the strategic workshop, which the minister attended, members were led to believe that the presidential proclamation would stand, Morgan said.
“But on Tuesday this week [Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries minister Tina] Joemat-Peterson said in her pre-budget briefing that all the functions of marine and coastal management would be transferred to her department. “So who is right Madam Minister, you or the Minister of Agriculture?”

He continued that it was “worth noting … that if indeed all the functions of MCM are being transferred to the Agriculture Department, which Minister Joemat-Peterson claims is the case, then our committee has been presented with a budget and a business plan for the Department of Environmental Affairs, and which we debate here today, that does not reflect what will actually happen.”

Morgan said the DA supported the retention of the enforcement of the Integrated Coastal Management Act and any functions that relate to oceans research within the Department of Environment. “Just like we believe that the environmental functions of mining should revert to the Department of Environmental Affairs, so should the environmental functions of Marine and Coastal Management,” he said.
“The last few months have been turbulent within MCM. Staff have turned into politicians, vested interests have been revealed, and fisheries management has worsened. To Minister Joemat-Peterson, whether you take 100 percent or 80 percent of the fisheries functions, I wish you good luck. MCM is a mess.”

Pic: The IPV Ruth First