Weekly Press Review – 24 July 2017

The Bengis name has made local headlines again this week with the news that 81 year-old Arnold Bengis, will face another 57 months in an American Federal prison.

According to the press, Bengis senior was sentenced in the Court for the Southern District of New York for charges related to the case stemming from his company’s poaching of marine life, specifically West Coast rock lobster.

Along with the prison sentence, Bengis will have to pay $37.3 million (R485m) in restitution after failing to pay an original 2004 restitution order.

Now residing in Tel Aviv, Bengis faces extradition.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries acting chief director for monitoring control and surveillance, Thembalethu Vico, says, “ DAFF will stop at nothing to ensure that the full might of the law is applied against anyone who is found to be robbing the South African communities by stealing their invaluable fisheries resources.”

Also making headlines this week are allegations of corruption and bribery within South Africa’s multi-billion rand fisheries industry.

According to the press, industry sources have revealed that the suspension of the director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mike Mlengana,  last week could open a Pandora’s box in an economic sector already riddled with controversy.

Sources have also revealed that the department has recently awarded a number of tenders under questionable circumstances, including one valued at R150 million which was awarded to a preferred company with a 19 year-old, with 25 years experience in the fishing industry, on the company’s board of directors.

In May this year, the Hawks visited the department’s offices and confiscated a laptop and cellphone belonging to an official.

The department has stated that it is co-operating with the Hawks’ investigation.

The search continues for the four fishermen still missing after their vessel, the Maledon, capsized off St Francis Bay last week.

According to the press, eight of the 16 crew members survived the incident, four lost their lives and four remain missing.

The families of these missing men now face a new shock in that without the bodies of their loved ones, they have a battle to get any insurance payouts. In order to access the benefits of an existing provident fund, they need to produce a death certificate and without a body, this is simply not possible.

General manager of Balobi Fishing Enterprises said, “Where there is no body, we will assist by means of our attorney to work through the legal process to get the presumption-of-death certificates, but it is a lengthy process.”

The search for the missing fishermen continues.

Weekly Press Review – 6 November 2015

This week a small slice of maritime history was celebrated as the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) hosted a commemoration entitled:  Remembering the Icons of the Sea.

Members of the media were included in the event which took place aboard the SA Agulhas in the Cape Town docks.  The commemoration was in honour of the approximately 40 brave men exiled from South Africa who attempted to enter the country aboard the Soviet vessel, The Aventura.

The vessel was bound for KwaZulu-Natal, but Operation Aventura was abandoned just outside Somalia and the men then found their way into South Africa via Swaziland and Botswana.

Former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) commander Fanele Mbali and fellow comrades Tlom Cholo and Zola Nqose, who were all part of the Luthuli attachment, attended the event.

“We desperately wanted to get back home to fight the boer, and die in that engagement if we had to,” said Mbali.

SAMSA chief executive Tsietsi Mokhele said, “Our stalwarts played a significant role in maritime heritage.  What the stalwarts made us realise was that the sea offers more than just fish and a good view.  Maritime explorations were critical.”

The Oceana Fishmeal Factory in Hout Bay is back in the headlines this week.

The jobs of 98 of the factory’s employees have been saved thanks to a successful bid by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU).

In August Oceana made the announcement that they would not be able to keep the factory working due to continual complaints from some residents in the area about the smell emitted from the factory.

The jobs of the workers have been saved after the signing of an agreement between Fawu and Oceana, extending the operating lease of the factory from one to five years.

Oceana also announced this week that the company would be spending an estimated R11 million to update their chemical scrubbing technology to deal with the odour problem.

Chief executive Francois Kuttel was, however, quick to point out that the this was not going to solve the problem to the satisfaction of all residents of Hout Bay.

“Let me be categorical here, unfortunately, nothing we are going to do will stop the smell.  The technology simply does not exist,” he said.

The name Bengis is also back in the headlines this week with the announcement that David Bengis, son of former Cape Town fishing magnate Arnold Bengis, has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the South African government as restitution for the illegal harvesting of rock lobster in South African waters.

This is part of the $22.5 million that a US court ordered Arnold and David Bengis, along worth their partner Jeffrey Noll, to pay the South African government as restitution for the illegal importation of poached lobster to the US.

The lobster were poached in South Africa between 1987 and 2001.