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Seli 1 oil spill could have been avoided

The devastating effects of a kilometre-long oil slick near Blauwberg could have been prevented if Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson did her job instead of sowing institutional dysfunction in her department.

The oil slick resulted after stormy weather over the weekend caused the Seli 1 wreck to shift. Milnerton lagoon has been boomed off and Koeberg is on high alert as its intake basin is under potential threat.

The response of the City of Cape Town has been impressive so far, whereas the national department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is nowhere to be seen, even though its mandate is to contain oil spills.

After the bungling of an R800 million tender in November last year, Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson decided to transfer the functions of her department’s marine fleet to the Navy. In early July, the South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) warned that the Navy would not be able to respond effectively to any oil spill off the South African coast.

The warning followed SAMSA’s inability to audit the marine patrol vessels that are being managed by the Navy. The vessels have been confined to Simon’s Town harbour since the beginning of April. Unfortunately, the Minister took no notice of SAMSA’s warnings.

Instead of actually running her department, she has been busy suspending her top officials, often for no discernible reason. This further contributes to the institutional dysfunction that has characterised her ministry over the last three years.

Minister Joemat-Pettersson needs to be held responsible for the systematic failure of her department at every level. Marine safety depends on it.

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