On Monday, 16th of October 2017, Coastal Links members and members from the Fisheries Collective, representing the near shore fisheries sector, occupied the hall of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Fisheries Collective demanded to meet with the DDG Siphokazi Ndudane.

This was the second meeting between the DDG and the Collective. The demands of the collective are the following:

  1. Stop the WCRL-FRAP
  2. Stop WCRL allocation to the Offshore sector
  3. Exemption and allocation of the entire TAC to the Nearshore and SMME sector

The outcome of the meeting was not positive as the DDG indicated that the DAFF is not willing to meet the demands of the collective and stop the WCRL-FRAP process. In response, the Collective representatives abandoned the meeting and wrote and an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana and the Deputy Director General (Branch Fisheries), Siphokazi Ndundane:

“Dear Senzeni/Siphokazi

We write to you today in a much less formal setting and as South Africans to one another. The South African coastal communities appear to have reached an impasse with your department in respect of bringing about meaningful change to our people at a grassroots level.

For months now we have battled to get meetings with you and had followed this up with protest action which had eventually led to an official engagement. The situation of the South African coastal communities have been highlighted so much that it would be impossible for anyone within your department to deny the real devastation your department has wreaked upon already impoverished communities through inadequate fisheries rights allocation processes and also your complete disregard of the prevailing socio-economic conditions within these communities.

What will it take for you, as decision-makers, to see the harm you are inflicting upon our people. Are our people not your people? Why has it become so difficult for your department to exercise and enforce the necessary political will needed to bring about the change needed to grant all South Africans the opportunity for a better life?

It is difficult to comprehend that after 23 years in a new dispensation we still have government departments who exercise their mandate in favour of the few who still exploit the masses. Regardless of how much you and your department try to convince our coastal communities that you are working in their interest, your actions and deeds tells a completely different story. How many of our coastal communities must still regress into the cesspool of social degradation and live with the social ills related to it?

You have had every opportunity to remedy this situation and you have acknowledged that you have missed opportunities to bring about remedial actions on behalf of our fishing communities yet you continue on your path of coastal community destruction. 

Your department develops a social conscience when a handful of (temporary) jobs are threatened within big fishing companies but fail to address the challenges which have devastated our coastal communities for decades. When big, oversubscribed fishing companies are threatened with the possibility of losing part of their high value species allocations then suddenly your department declares that legal challenges cannot allow you to stop or reverse certain processes even though they (DAFF) empathizes with the situation at a grassroots level. Strangely enough similar processes related to high value species (Abalone) were successfully stopped in the past and placed on exemption status.

In South Africa approximately 600 000 men, women and children are reliant on marine resources as their primary source of income while other use it to supplement their meagre income from subsistence livelihoods. Locally harvested species also provides other impoverished communities with an affordable source of protein and micro-nutrients which are critical in the early development phases of our children. How can you not see what you are doing to our people when these figures stare you in the face everyday?

Today, before writing this letter, one of our member organizations had also sent a request for an extension of the East Coast Rock Lobster season explaining in detail the reasons for the request. It revolves around the livelihoods of thousands of subsistence families along the Eastern Cape shoreline. It would be interesting to see just how serious you are about bringing about long-term sustainable solutions as much as addressing urgent social challenges through powers which reside with you as the Custodian. Your department reacts swiftly when extensions, roll-overs, area relocations and more are requested by big companies but always seem to have a readily available excuse when coastal communities lodge similar request.

You have given our fishing communities a small scale fisheries policy that cannot produce any form of economic viability for it’s intended beneficiaries because you had already allocated the required resources to the commercial sectors and have effectively tied these resources up for years to come. You continually create expectations within our coastal communities by promoting policies which have no chance of bringing about the urgent socio-economic changes we so urgently need for our people. You protect the one resource (west coast rock lobster) that could still provide interim relief for our coastal communities for the next three years with such ferocity that begs the question, in whose interest?

It is our firm believe that it is every citizen’s duty to vote but also to question before doing so.. Why then would we, as the fisher-folk of South Africa want to vote for government, that is guided by a Constitution that entrenches the protection of human-rights and guarantees it’s citizens a better life and yet practices something completely to the contrary as can be demonstrated by the abject poverty and explosion of social ills which is now almost commonplace in our once vibrant coastal fishing communities.”

On Thursday, 19th of October 2017, the DAFF Minister Senzeni Zokwana was in Velddrif, Western Cape. The ANC Westcoast Region invited the Minister to address the growing concerns over the allocations of fishing rights and the overall transformation of the sector.

Coastal Links leaders, including Christian Adams, CLSA National Secretary were present at the meeting and challenged the Minister. While the Minister stated that the implementation of the SSF policy is rolling out in the Northern Cape, he was unable to give details or attached dates to his promises regarding the implementation of the policy in the other provinces.

Furthermore, the Minister did not address the letters and demands made by fishers in relation to the WCRL TAC allocation.

Despite the numerous actions, the SSF are still not seeing hopeful signs from DAFF, only empty promises.  It is becoming increasingly clear that government stance is that the change government is working for is not in favour of small-scale fishers. Through programmes such as Operation Phakisa, government is seeking to promote an economic model known as “Blue Economy” that promotes water and coastal land grabbing and favours big business.

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