Joemat-Pettersson hits back at DA

2012-03-01 13:12
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has taken issue with the Democratic Alliance (DA) for its criticism of her plan to relocate the fisheries branch to Pretoria.

The ministry has noted with “shock and dismay” a statement by the DA in response to her call to “foster unity in my department”, she said.

On Tuesday, Joemat-Pettersson told the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries portfolio committee that the department’s fisheries branch – Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) – continued to work as an “island from the main body”.

This created duplications with the head office’s work, and painted a picture of MCM being an independent body not governed by her department.

She said that as it currently stood, MCM was biased towards the Western Cape, and mainly big business, over the rest of the country and the small fisherfolk.

In a statement yesterday, DA spokesperson Pieter van Dalen said Joemat-Pettersson had “lost the plot”.

“In her infinite wisdom”, she had decided that the best way to turn around the performance of the MCM management unit was to relocate it to Pretoria from Cape Town, where it was based.

“Exactly how taking a coastal management unit away from the coast will help is difficult to fathom. Talk about a fish out of water,” Van Dalen said.

“Do we need to remind Minister Joemat-Pettersson that 80% of commercial fishing activity takes place in the coastal region of the Western Cape?” he said.

“Does she expect fishermen to travel to Pretoria each time they have to apply for a permit?”

Van Dalen asked what would happen to the 7000 MCM staff residing in Cape Town.

“This has clearly not been thought through properly,” he said.

Joemat-Pettersson responded that Van Dalen had chosen to ignore her words “in their entirety”, choosing to focus only on the call to relocate MCM from Pretoria to Cape Town.

Van Dalen’s claim that 80% of commercial fishing activity took place in the coastal region of the Western Cape was both untrue and unsustainable.

“Yes, historically the previous government concentrated commercial fishing in the Western Cape [and] created this artificial strength,” she said.

In the process, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were under-developed and the Northern Cape completely ignored.
If the playing field was levelled and fisheries spread across the country, the Western Cape would represent far less than 80% of commercial farming.

It was also important to note that the fishing stocks were depleted in the Western Cape and resources were being spread to other parts of the country, including in the rivers for aquaculture.

“All national departments are headquartered in Pretoria. This does not mean there is no provincial, regional, and local representation. This should also hold for fisheries and their representation should spread beyond only the Western Cape,” she said.