Today the Democratic Alliance requested the Chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mlungisi Johnson, to call on Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to appear before the committee and explain herself, after the department finally admitted it would not meet its targets for the Chief Directorate: Fisheries' Research and Development, Monitoring and Control Surveillance.
Failure to meet the survey deadlines will affect the Marine Stewardship Council certification of hake stocks. The certification process depends on the survey results, which need to be assessed at the end of March 2013.
If the survey of both hake and other types of fish stocks is not completed by the deadline, the fishing industry will be severely compromised, and up to 9 000 jobs could be in jeopardy.
This is in contradiction to a statement by the department last week saying it was satisfied with the progress of the survey after the DA called for decisive action from Minister Joemat-Pettersson.
What is even more disheartening is the fact that none of the problems with the DAFF fleet's research vessel have been addressed during the past year. The majority of the vessels are either undergoing repairs or not fit to sail at all after they lost ISM Class Certification, which was part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the department and the SA Navy.
The department has blamed the South African Navy for failing to maintain the vessels according to the Memorandum of Understanding entered into in March last year. The Memorandum of Understanding expires at the end of March 2013 and it is uncertain who will be tasked with maintaining the DAFF vessels after this date.
During this whole process, Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has silently stood by and delegated responsibility to a newly appointed Deputy Director General, among other staff in her department. She has failed to take responsibility for the disaster that is the fisheries unit.
If the Minister does not have a strategy, thousands of South Africans will lose their jobs. It is high time the committee forced her to act.
It is the poorest of the poor who will bear the brunt of her irresponsible leadership if she does not take urgent action to rectify the situation.
Pieter van Dalen, Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries