Joemat-Pettersson accused of avoiding responsibilities

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is due to investigate a third complaint against Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson, this time for allegedly violating the Executive Ethics Code.

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The minister is already being investigated by the public protector for her extravagant expenditure on flights and hotels and also for suspected irregularities of R800 million in tender procedures in the fisheries sector. According to Pieter van Dalen, DA MP and spokesperson for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, who laid the most recent charge, Joemat-Pettersson had failed to carry out her duties over the last three years in accordance with the principles stipulated in the ethics code.

He said the code stipulated that members of the Executive had to “perform their duties and exercise their powers diligently and honestly”. Van Dalen added that Joemat-Pettersson had “repeatedly failed to meet with key stakeholders in the industries she was responsible for overseeing” and “her three-year tenure has been characterised by much blame-shifting and little ownership of responsibility”.

The complaint referred specifically to the minister’s interaction with the fisheries sector, he said. Van Dalen told Farmer’s Weekly that during the past three years, Joemat-Pettersson had not held a single meeting with any important stakeholder in the fisheries sector. DAFF spokesperson Palesa Mokomele said that she could not comment on the latest charge brought against the minister as she had not yet received any communication on the charge from the office of the public protector.

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Van Dalen has also accused the minister of lying about the investigation of corruption charges relating to the allegedly irregular 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, Duncan Hindle. He replied that the minister ‘does not have any documents on Pentow Marine’,” said Van Dalen.

The department’s contract with Smit Amandla came to an end in November 2011, after which a new R800 million tender was awarded to Sekunjalo Consortium, only to be withdrawn after complaints about irregularities in the tender process surfaced. Mokomele said that Van Dalen was referring to a comment made by the minister in March this year, and added that the investigation he was referring to got under way only in May. Van Dalen said it did not matter when the comment was made or when the investigation started; what was important was that the minister had lied.