/ 16 March 2014

Fisheries minister taking protector to court

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Just three days before public protector Thuli Madonsela releases a report on the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, a senior government minister announced that she is taking her to court.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson served the court papers on Madonsela on Friday, challenging her report on the tender to manage the state's fishery vessels which was released on December 4.

Madonsela recommended that Zuma consider disciplinary action against Joemat-Petterson for "reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry in South Africa, alleged decimation of fisheries resources in South Africa and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research".

Joemat-Petterson now wants the high court to review and correct the report, including its findings and recommendations, or set it aside.

On Sunday morning, Joemat-Petterson told journalists at a press briefing in Cape Town that there were flaws and inaccuracies in Madonsela's report and that her attempts to resolve the issues with the public protector had been unsuccessful.

Asked about the timing of her court challenge, Joemat-Pettersson said she was well within the six months allowed in which to respond.

Resolve the dispute
"I had consulted two senior counsel before I was absolutely convinced that I will go to court. This is not a matter you take [a decision on] overnight. You can only decide on such an urgent and serous matter if you convinced of the veracity of the problem," she said.

Joemat-Pettersson refused to answer questions if she had consulted Zuma and whether he had given her the go-ahead to approach the courts.

She also acknowledged that the courts were not the best option to resolve the dispute.

"I was of the opinion that the matter could have been resolved between the public protector and the minister. We attempted to write to the public protector and pointed out the factual inaccuracies in the report."

Joemat-Pettersson said her department held a different view to that of the protector on the four allegations made against her.

She said the report claimed there was "wasteful and fruitless expenditure", but no evidence had been produced.

Loss of confidence
Joemat-Pettersson also denied there had been a loss of confidence in the fishing industry and that it was a perception.

She also said there was no evidence to support that fishing resources had been decimated.

She also denied that quota allocations had been delayed, saying Madonsela’s finding was "premature and has now been proven factually incorrect".

Madonsela had found that the awarding of an R800-million tender for fisheries patrol services to the Sekunjalo Marine Service Consortium was irregular.

The public protector's office said it will respond on Monday morning to Joemat-Pettersson's accusations and court action.