On 9 June 2021, Masifundise embarked on a field trip to Port Nolloth to learn about the in-depth fishing culture and history that exists.
The Port Nolloth harbour, where small-scale fishers launch their boats and where the Aukatowa Small-scale Fishing Cooperative has its offices, is also home to the remnants of a fish-processing factory.
Port Nolloth was established in 1854 as a small-vessel harbour for the copper-mining industry, and according to Harry Coraizin, a 78-year old small-scale fisherman, became a fishing village in 1953. A fish processing factory was opened in 1960, and this, along with the blooming diamond mining industry, became the main source of income and employment for the entire community.
The majority of the community worked at this fish processing company for decades. Fishing was abundant in those days, but slowly the stocks were depleted by the large amount of extraction and commercial fishing that was taking place across the country, and the factory began to decrease its output and retrench its workers. The factory was closed down in 1993, towards the end of Apartheid, and the company left Port Nolloth, leaving the building to fall into disrepair and leaving a community unemployed. Those who worked at the factory explain that they received minimal severance pay from the company, independent of the amount of years spent working there. Many were forced to leave the area, as their only possible job opportunity was lost.
The factory building now stands abandoned and falling apart, a shell of the history of success in the community, and evidence of the exploitation of a hard-working community and ocean resources. This case highlights the way in which large companies will enter a community, extract as much as they can for as long as is beneficial to them, and then leave the community with no long-lasting benefits. This is indicative of a complete lack of consideration of the development and upliftment of communities.
However, the factory also represents an opportunity for the community and for the Aukatowa Cooperative to develop a fish processing facility, to employ the broader community, and create value-adding opportunities for the cooperative as well as foster more control over the value chain and food system. This kind of development would require an enabling environment from government and support from the DFFE as well as the local municipality.