THE FISHING community of Arniston is looking to put international tenure guidelines to good use as part of finding solutions to some of the challenges they face.

The The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) was adopted at the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations a few years back.

Rowina Marthinus, Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) member in Arniston said that they have many problems in their community, and that they look towards the VGGT to provide them with answers, not only for problems they experience as fishers, but for challenges facing their overall community.

Marthinus said that they hold regular meetings and workshops in which they discuss the application of the VGGT in their communities, and that the last workshop took place on September 7.

“For instance, we have Denel that keeps on testing weapons in the waters where our people are fishing, it is dangerous and scares the fish away.”

Imagine, when you just throw a small stone into the water, the fish will swim away, now tell me what will happen when you bomb the water with missiles.”

Marthinus said the weapon testing has devastating effects on sea and land.

“Our houses crack, our children get affected, and they get afraid when the bombs go off, they cannot concentrate at school, and it affects people’s hearing.”

“We looked at the Tenure Guidelines, and we realised that it speaks directly to situations like this, and should a company like Denel wants to do something like this, they need to consult the people it would negatively impact.”

Marthinus said that what happens is that Denel at present pays the boat owner R12 000 per day if they decide to bomb in the waters on a particular day.

What happens is that very little of this money at the end of the day filters down to the crew who work on these boats, and are forced to sacrifice a day’s work.

“The boat owner will take R6000 of the R12 000, he then deducts money for petrol and other expenses he would have had on the day, he pays himself a salary for the day, as he is also a crew member. The rest of the money he would split between the fishers on the boat, which comes to about R300 per fisher.”

According to Marthinus, the community believes this is way too little, and not a sustainable earning, or what the individual fishers would have earned for the day.

The problem is with the way Denel has gone about its business in compensating for the loss of time that the fishers experience.

“They never consulted the community, they just decided to pay the boat owners, who are making a profit out of the situation, but impoverishing the fishers.”

Marthinus said that they are going to raise these issues with Denel, seek proper compensation for the fishers and look for proper solutions to the challenges the testing pose to them.

Another problem the community of Arniston is also facing is the Hotel in Arniston. Through it, the land on the beach in front of the hotel where the fishers used to hang their nets has become privatised.

“Now we have no place to hang our nets, and the place that the fishers used as a look-out to watch for fish in the water has also been taken away from us.”

Other issues Marthinus said that they would be taking on in future include the communal ownership of Kassiesbaai, whose title-deed seemed to have been changed.

“We do not know who changed the title-deed of the community, and who the property now belongs to, but we will find out and fight to return it to the ownership of the community.”

Marthinus said that people in Arniston have been moved around and evicted from their homes over many years, and that they as a community will look at starting a case study, on what properties in Arniston belonged to the people who are now residing in Kassiesbaai.

The Arniston community also has an Info Centre that they started a few years back, but which they cannot use, because the owner of the hotel has interdicted the municipality for selling the land to the community, and wants to stop the sale of the land, although a building for the Info Centre has already been erected on the site.

“The Department of Land Reform and Rural Development (DLRRD) implement rural development plans in rural communities, and then set up committees in communities which they call Community Stakeholders (CS).”

These committees become problematic, said Marthinus as they become political footballs for the local municipality, because the CS must implement the local development plan through them.

She said that they resolved that they want to have meeting with the businesses and organisations that impact on the community, to explain to them how they negatively impact on their lives, and what they must do to change it.

Marthinus said that business and government must look at how they can do things that will benefit the community, like creating jobs and helping the youth to go and study further.

She concluded by saying that the process of development must be accompanied by strong community consultation and the tenure guidelines provide a strong basis for how this needs to be done.

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