Criminal charges against Tina?

The DA plans to lay criminal charges against the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, after a report by the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela in which the minister has been accused of maladministration and improper and unethical conduct in the manner she awarded an R800 million fisheries patrol tender.

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At a media briefing in Pretoria on 5 December, Madonsela said that President Jacob Zuma should institute disciplinary measures against Joemat-Pettersson.The awarding of an R800 million tender for fisheries patrol services to the Sekunjalo Marine Service Consortium (SMSC) was irregular, said Madonsela.

“The president is to consider taking disciplinary action against the minister for her reckless dealing with state money and services which resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” she said. Among the findings were that Joemat-Pettersson violated section 11(1) of the Public Protector Act by interfering in the investigation.

In terms of this section anyone found guilty of interfering in the Public Protector’s investigations is liable to a fine not exceeding R40 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or both. “I will therefore be laying criminal charges to this effect. This time, Minister Joemat-Pettersson would do well not to interfere,” Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen said.

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Madonsela’s investigation followed a complaint by Van Dalen. He asked her to investigate the awarding of the multi-million rand contract to manage the department’s fleet of research and patrol ships. The tender awarding process allegedly showed evidence of collusive tendering and/or bid rigging by the Sekunjalo consortium.

Van Dalen said in a statement that the DA welcomed the findings. “This is the second time Minister Joemat-Pettersson has been found guilty of an offence by the Public Protector. The last time she escaped with a slap on the wrist. The DA will make sure that this will not happen again,” Van Dalen said.

Dr Piet Croucamp, political analyst of the University of Johannesburg, said that Joemat-Pettersson would not likely escape the consequences of Madonsela’s report. “Most of government’s focus will be on Nelson Mandela’s funeral for now and then it’s Christmas. But come January, government will be dealing with both reports on Joemat-Pettersson and Nkandla in order to have it out of the way before the national elections.”

He said that several members of parliament were calling for Joemat-Pettersson’s dismissal, and he would not be surprised if she did not make another term as agricultural minister. The ANC’s National Executive Committee meeting scheduled for this weekend had been postponed until further notice, due to Mandela’s death. Initial speculations were that Madonsela’s reports on Joemat-Pettersson, former minister of communication, Dina Pule, and Nkandla would have been discussed at this meeting.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) called an urgent media briefing for Friday morning on Thursday night. The meeting was called off after midnight, when news of former president Nelson Mandela’s death became known. Palesa Mokomele, the minister’s spokesperson told Farmer’s Weekly that a statement on Mandonsela’s report on the fisheries contract will be released in due course.

Mokomele added that they felt that the minister’s response to the Public Protector’s preliminary report was not accurately reflected in the final report.