Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Top agriculture official placed on suspension

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has announced the suspension of director-general Langa Zita
THE Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced the suspension of director-general Langa Zita yesterday, but did not elaborate on the reasons, except to say that they were administrative.
Palesa Mokomele, spokesman for the minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said Sipho Ntombela had been appointed acting director-general.
Mr Zita was barely 20 months into the job and had been introduced by Ms Joemat-Pettersson as an appropriate candidate with the required background and skills, since he had been her special adviser on policy.
Ms Joemat-Pettersson has of late been under pressure from various industry players, including red meat and ostrich producers, who suffered losses after disease outbreaks had led to a ban on exports.
In the fisheries sector, the department was forced to appoint an independent committee of inquiry into procurement procedures. This led to the suspension of a company, Sekunjalo , which had won the department’s R800m vessel management contract, on suspicions of political interference and corruption. The Navy had to take over management of the department’s maritime patrol vessels on April 1 for at least a year.
The fleet include the fisheries research vessels Africana, Algoa and Ellen Khuzwayo and the patrol vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First.
The Navy’s functions included the crewing of the vessels, the technical management of the vessels (maintenance, repair and life cycle management); provisioning; bunkering; operation; accounting and safety and seaworthiness of the ships.
Agri SA president Johannes Möller said Mr Zita’s suspension did not come as a surprise as his posting was based on the principle of "cadre deployment", which was an unacceptable risk for service delivery.
Mr Zita had worked in the economic cluster of the African National Congress (ANC) and was chairman of Parliament’s environment and tourism portfolio committee.
His relations with commercial farmers’ groupings had been abrasive, with Agri SA describing his manner of addressing the problems of commercial agriculture as "indicative of his ignorance, and sluggish".
Mr Möller said such deployments were unfair to individuals like Mr Zita, who should not have been given such an administratively crucial and strategic position without the necessary expertise in the first place.
The Democratic Alliance’s spokes-woman on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Annette Steyn, welcomed Mr Zita’s suspension, saying relations between him and the minister appeared to have become increasingly strained while the department’s performance had been subject to consistently heavy criticism.
"The department cannot afford a leadership vacuum, and it is vital that the processes regarding Mr Zita’s suspension are concluded as soon as possible. The agriculture sector, and the many South Africans it employs, cannot afford further uncertainty."
Ms Joemat-Pettersson told journalists in September 2010 Mr Zita’s appointment would bring the right knowledge and understanding to help translate the ANC’s economic policies into the work of her department.
"Under his stewardship, we are confident that (the department) will now knuckle down on the deliverables set for us by President Jacob Zuma , which include: decent employment through economic growth; protect and enhance our environmental assets and natural resources; and facilitate the creation of vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities and food security for all."
Mr Zita’s lawyer, Max Boxwana, said the minister had suspended his client without giving reasons, which he had now requested.
Original Article Here

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