Joemat-Pettersson court action ‘premature’

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has asked for a court review of a Public Protector report which recommends that disciplinary action be taken against her for alleged maladministration.

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Joemat-Pettersson recently asked the North Gauteng High Court to review the findings of a report into the awarding of an R800 million contract to a private company, Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium, to manage the department’s fleet of marine research and patrol ships. According to the minister, the report contained “numerous flaws and inaccuracies”.

At a press conference in parliament recently, Joemat-Pettersson explained that in response to a letter from the department of agriculture’s director-general, Edith Vries, detailing its objections to certain allegations in the report, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had responded by saying that the investigation was concluded and the recommendations in the report were final.

Some of the findings the minister objected to included an accusation of “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”, “loss of confidence in the fisheries industry” and the “decimation of fisheries resources and delayed quota allocations”. The minister was also found to have attempted to interfere with the Public Protector’s investigation.

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According to Joemat-Pettersson, there was a lack of evidence for many of the findings. She said that the department had acknowledged there had been “administrative weaknesses and flaws in the administration of this tender”. DA MP Pieter van Dalen believed the court action was “frivolous and premature”, adding that the report could only be subject to review once tabled in parliament. Kgalalelo Masibi, Public Protector spokesperson, said Madonsela believed that “no court of law is likely to find that with the facts before her, she was irrational in finding that the minister acted recklessly and improperly”.