A wide net: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says his department will launch a forensic inquiry. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
A wide net: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says his department will launch a forensic inquiry. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

The government is clamping down on fronting in the fishing sector amid concern that established companies engage in the practice by using fishermen to secure lucrative fishing rights.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said his department would soon institute a forensic investigation to prevent fishermen from being used as fronts for companies applying for fishing quota allocations.

The government is concerned the sector, which has annual sales of more than of R5bn, remains untransformed and dominated by few players.

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, which represents established operators, has previously dismissed allegations that the industry is untransformed and has said fragmentation and the allocation of rights to more companies are bad for the sector.

In 2016, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Marine Living Resources Amendment Act, which recognises small-scale fishermen who had previously been marginalised in the allocation of fishing rights.

In a written response to a question in Parliament from the EFF, Zokwana said the department was aware there might well be instances where some applicants had applied and been awarded fishing rights based on false or misleading information.

In order to deal with this and to prevent fronting and abuse of "poor innocent fishers", the department planned to appoint an independent forensic company to investigate the accuracy of information submitted by applicants during the 2015-16 fishing rights allocation process.

"The forensic company will carry out investigations into all successful applicants.

"If any right-holder is found to have provided false information or false documents or failed to disclose material information, proceedings in terms of … the Marine Living Resources Act [action] will be undertaken, which may result in the revocation, suspension, cancellation, alteration or reduction of the right granted," Zokwana said.

It was also possible that innocent fishers or members of the public may have been listed as directors and shareholders of companies applying for fishing rights without their knowledge or consent, Zokwana said.

"Where such information comes to light, it is important that this be shared with the department and SARS so that forensic investigation[s] can be conducted," he said.

Terrence Brown, the chairman of the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association, said on Wednesday the association would welcome any investigation into the sector.

“However, I am not aware of anything untoward, or that fronting has taken place…a recent independent survey by Empowerdex showed at least 62% of the industry is black owned,” said Brown. ​


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