South Africa’s fisheries authority is in a state of crisis, caused by two of its most senior officials who have brought the culture of corruption to the department.
This has left the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) unable to complete many of its most simple tasks, including allocating fishing rights and implementing regulations. The departure of a large number of skilled staff, including top scientists, have worsened the problem.
As a consequence, the fisheries sector, an important part of the Western Cape’s economy, is affected by deep disfunction, a state of affairs that largely affects poor people. Government programs intended to develop fishing communities (now hotbeds for abalone and crayfish poaching) have repeatedly stalled.
The corruption at the department (entrenched for many years) has been laid bare by a power struggle between director-general Mike Mlengana and his deputy, Siphokazi Ndudane. Even the minister for the department, Senzeni Zokwana, has become involved in the dispute, siding with Ndudane.
The department has injected tens of millions of rands towards legal fees for both officials, in some cases hiring opposing sets of counsel. In the last two years, the department has also completed at least three forensic reports into corruption, although even these have been tainted by allegations of improper influence.