On Tuesday 11 February the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was due to report back to their namesake Portfolio Committee in Parliament on the progress of fishing permits allocations and appeals. Chairperson Mlungisi Johnson (ANC) maintained that he did not feel it was appropriate to hear the Department’s presentation or consider their documents as the fishing permits appeals process is still on-going. Johnson went on to say that the committee should only consider the matter on 28 February considering that the deadline for fishermen to lodge their appeals is set for the day before.
Before staging a walk out (he returned some minutes later), the DA’s Pieter van Dalen hit back that the whole allocation process had been a failure from the start and that it didn’t make sense to let the process continue without a degree of oversite. He took particular exception to the fact that some people who allegedly “don’t even have fishing boats” and live far away from the sea were granted permits, while other subsistence and small-scale commercial line fishermen who had been fishing in their communities for years had been denied permits and lost their means to generate an income.
van Dalen went on to argue that the appeals process had been compromised by the fact that the applicants’ score sheets had been filled in arbitrarily and inaccurately, thereby showing a lack of compliance with the Marine Living Resources Act at the hands of DAFF officials.
According to a Business Day article published on 27 January 2014, fisheries consultant Shaheen Moolla, previously employed as a DAFF lawyer has labelled the fishing rights allocation process unconstitutional and unlawful. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club last month, Business Day reports that Moolla said the Marine Living Resources Act, the governing law for fishing rights allocations, explicitly stated that only the Minister in charge of fisheries can determine with the Minister of Finance what the payment should be for fishing rights allocations.
"No such thing was published in the Government Gazette", he said.
Mr Moolla went on to say that the bungling of the current allocation of permits would amount to the loss of an estimated 3 000 jobs in the fisheries sector. While the appeals continue, a number of fishermen have threatened civil disobedience and sustained protests to demand their rights.
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