In reply to a DA parliamentary question, Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson indicated that an 'extremely sensitive' investigation is being conducted by the Hawks and Asset Forfeiture Unit into corruption in the Fisheries Branch in excess of R1 billion relating to the irregular, illegal extension' of the contract between Smit Amandla Marine (previously Pentow Marine) and the Fisheries department back in 2005.
When I asked the Minister to make this 'documentary evidence' available, she referred me to her adviser, Mr Duncan Hindle. Mr Hindle then replied that the Minister 'does not have any documents on Pentow Marine'.
The Minister's bluff is stranger than fiction. Just who is telling the truth here?
The Minister has alleged for some time now that the tender was illegally extended and that she has documentary 'proof' that Smit Amandla were guilty of fronting, overcharging and corruption. Now her advisor says that she has nothing to corroborate her allegations.
The department's contract with Smit Amandla came to an end in November 2011. The new R800m tender was irregularly awarded to ANC-connected Sekunjalo Consortium. Smit Amandla appealed the decision in court and the contract was subsequently withdrawn.
It now appears that the Minister's allegations against Smit Amandla are just a pretext on which to justify the strange decision to hand the contract to Sekunjalo in the first place. It seems no accident that the Black Business Chamber - who stood to benefit from a Sekunjalo contract - is now also crowing about past corruption allegedly involving Smit Amandla.
It has also come to the DA's attention that Sue Middleton - suspended in May for no apparent reason other than trying to get South Africa's marine research vessels running again - returned to work in June without any action having been taken against her. The Minister then claimed that she had been called before a disciplinary hearing, found guilty of financial mismanagement and given a final warning letter.
\Middleton has publically stated that no such hearing has been held and this is the first she's heard of the charges and supposed letter. The DA will continue to call the Minister's blatant bluffs.
We challenge the Minister to produce hard evidence before making allegations about corruption. Until such time, the evidence shows that the Minister is continuing her epic show of smoke and mirrors. But the public will not be deceived, and the DA will not rest until the Minister is held to account for these shenanigans.
Pieter van Dalen, DA Deputy Spokesperson on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries