Goeie naand aan al die dorpe teenwoordig, molweni neka, sanbonani and last but not the least good evening to all the towns present at our AGM. Good evening to all the Masifundise Board Members, our partners and all other distinguished guests.
As I am now continuing in English I am doing something that reflects the struggle that we as fishers are in. We are speaking in a language that is not our own and yet we’re doing this as if it’s the only option available to us. We’re practicing our birth rights as part of an industry, operating under a temporary permit and yet we’re doing this as if it’s the only option available to us.
As an organisation we are embarking on an exciting journey, the organisation is still finding its feet as a national voice for fishers and we’re also entering the stage where our insistence to implement pro-poor policies will be tested by the cowardice lack of political will.
The past year has been a great journey for me as the chairperson of this organisation, we moved from being a voice to few, too being a voice to many. We moved from being a voice to a part of fishers too being a voice for all fishers. We’ve seen our organisation being transformed from representing a few cultures too representing the majority of cultures in our country.
As all of us are aware by now, what used to be Coastal Links has now become Coastal Links-South Africa. Back in the day when our policy was being written and we met with fishers from the Eastern Cape and the Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces and we exchanged our stories of our struggles, we dreamt about this. Today those stories are no longer told and we as fishers are no longer left to fend for ourselves but today those stories form the basis of what programs we as Coastal Links South Africa embark on.
On the 8th of November 2012, Coastal Links South Africa was officially formed, and what started in 2004 in Langebaan with 6 towns became 150 towns in Port Elizabeth. This fact alone shows the margin by which we have grown, however with this phenomenal growth there also comes the greater responsibility of a much higher degree of empathy between members. We are going through this exciting time of exploring one another’s cultures and of how we as fishers in the Northern Cape do things and how we as fishers in the KZN do things. Of how markets in the Western Cape behave and how that impacts on markets in the Eastern Cape.
A lot can be said about how fishers should operate and what can be done for fishers but every day we are finding in our lives that it is becoming ever more difficult to practice our way of life. Everyday there’s a different fight to fight on a different front; if it’s not big business trying to keep us out it is the Green Party trying to stop us fishing, if it’s not the department issuing the wrong permits it’s the resort owners shooting us away from our beaches. It is only now that we can truly appreciate the on-going work of Masifundise and Coastal Links-South Africa.
Therefore my plea at this inaugural AGM of Coastal Links-South Africa is that whilst we’re getting the systems in place it is important for us as leaders and members to have more empathy with one another in trying to understand the different challenges we face in our towns and that it is our duty to ensure that we collectively overcome our challenges.
This will always stay an important part of our existence, because of networking we are national today, because of networking we can proudly say that the Coastal Links network covers South Africa from the Mozambican border right through to the Namibian border. Because of networking we can proudly say that Coastal Links-South Africa, through Masifundise, currently occupy the seat of the Co-chairperson of the World Forum for Fisher People (WFFP). We have also been tasked with hosting the next global WFFP summit in 2014. Viva Coastal Links South Africa! Viva
But it is also through networking that harders nearly landed on a red list of some obscure seafood labelling scheme. So therefore caution should always be on the forefront when we engage with other stakeholders in the industry and it is imperative that we ensure that these stakeholders have our interest at heart. A special word of thanks to one such likeminded organisation would be to Afrika Kontakt for the continued support they’ve given to us over the years. To Serge and his team, please continue with the excellent work you’re doing, to Jackie and rest of the UCT team, we appreciate what you’ve done on the Oliphant’s River. To Zuki and the EMG, we are ever thankful for the work amongst the Doring Baai fishers.
And last but not the least, to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), this is the little amount of work we can show you, the rest you’ll find on the soles of our children’s feet, in the reasoning of an informed teenager, in the smiles of the our Grandmothers faces, in song of a cooking mother and in the handshake from the fathers your support has enabled to make a dignified living.
Small Scale Fisheries Policy
This is our policy and we should never be ashamed of claiming the rights this policy guarantees us.
We’ve seen the amount of resistance the implementation of this policy has met and with that we’ve got our work cut out for ourselves. If ever we thought we had a fight on our hands never did we think about the lack of political will to implement this policy. I propose that we do something dramatic like applying for asylum in a country like Syria or North Korea to practice our human right as fishers, maybe this will open the eyes of the politicians to see that this is what we want.
This policy was brought about because our Human Rights have been violated and the highest courts in South Africa decided that this case of ours was so unique, so special and so important that they took this ruling and cast it in stone to ensure that no court, no business, no political party and no government in South Africa will ever have the power to take this right away from us.
We gave our all to fight for our right to be politically free, let us now give our last for our right to be economically, socially and most important mentally free.