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The DA has lambasted the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) over its response to abalone poaching complaints in the Overstrand region.
This area encompasses the coastal towns of Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Hermanus, Gansbaai and Pringle Bay. It is a hotspot for poaching.
“Information obtained from the Marine Anti-Poaching Unit (MAPU) in the Western Cape has revealed that between July 2017 and March 2018, the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has only responded to 44% of abalone poaching complaints in the Overstrand region. Out of 127 complaints lodged, the department only responded to 56,” the DA’s Beverley Schäfer said in a statement.
Schäfer is the party’s spokesperson for economic opportunities, tourism, and agriculture as well as a member of the provincial legislature.
The poor response, according to her, was indicative of deep-rooted corruption.
News24 sister publication City Press reported on Sunday that three senior DAFF officials and two Crime Intelligence officers colluded to steal three tons of abalone.
“These allegations are extremely serious and point to severe corruption at the core of DAFF. It appears the department is rotting from the inside out. DAFF must explain not only its failure to deliver on its mandate in the Western Cape, but a string of very serious allegations detailing its involvement in the poaching of abalone which is a major socio-economic crime in our province,” said Schäfer.
The Hawks arrested nine marine inspectors in March along with 10 others as part of an investigation into a poaching syndicate, News24 recently reported.
“Corruption is a serious challenge as it involves government officials who should be ensuring that law and order prevails. This corruption problem is widespread, but we fight it wherever it shows itself, be it with endangered species or procurement processes,” Hawks Western Cape communication officer Captain Philani Nkwalase told News24.
He said that the DAFF was intent on trying to fight corruption.
“We are very happy with the department. All those who are involved in the alleged acts of corruption are investigated and arrested. We also appeal to people with information to come forward to ensure the successful prosecution of others.
“If you recall, in the latest bust of officials we arrested kingpins as well. So we have disrupted the illegal poaching of abalone. But we are well aware that as we address others an opportunity of poaching is undertaken by another group, but we will not lose courage. We are addressing these issues,” Nkwalase added.
Poaching is an ongoing problem in the area and the MAPU reported busting a poaching group made up of 12 divers in late 2017, but were not able to effect any arrests.
“When the divers exited the ocean, the response team approached them and within seconds the divers threw the equipment in nearby bushes and the bags into the ocean, which was filled with abalone,” said the MAPU report.
Multiple efforts to contact the DAFF resulted in no response.