Florina Albertyn is a community activist who cares deeply about the well-being of her community.
As the chairperson of Coastal Links SA in Hawston and Western Cape Provincial Secretary, she believes that it is important to work for the rights of the fishing community and also to address other issues that seem to be destroying the whole community.
Albertyn is a single 32-year old parent of two young children, who lives with her sister and her family in the home in which they grew up with their parents.
All her life she has lived in Hawston and attended the Hawston Primary and High Schools, where she completed her schooling up to Standard 9.
She has been surrounded by the fishing industry, as she comes from an Overberg coastal town, and her whole family and extended relatives are all small-scale fishers or work in the fishing industry in one way or the other.
“My father and brother and other family members are fishermen,” says Albertyn. “They are handling fishers who angle from the rocks, and they also go out with the boats onto the open sea to catch fish”.
Albertyn says they catch fish in the sea and also in the river, because some of the fish venture from the sea into the river.
“Our people catch galjoen, kabeljou, steenbras, silverfish and a variety of other fish.”
Their catch serves both as a means of an income and for subsistence.
She says that they mostly sell their fish to other people in the town, and keep some to take home to feed the family.
“In our community there is a lot of poverty, and our fishermen sometimes give their fish away to other community members”.
This is the kind of solidarity that exists amongst the poor, without which many people will starve to death, Albertyn believes.
In some cases, small-scale fishers do not have a right to fish, and end up doing so illegally.
This places an extra burden on the small scale fishers, as they’re fined, locked up and compelled to go to court to go and answer to the charges against them.
Many of the small-scale fishers in Hawston are therefore regarded as poachers, although they are different from the kind of poachers from Hawston that normally make national news headlines.
In fact, many of these small scale fishers hardly make the headlines and are hardly noticed, and they seem to be suffering in silence.
Albertyn got involved in the struggles of the small-scale fishers as a youth organiser.
“I was part of the youth programme that was run by Masifundise and Coastal Links SA in the Overberg towns.”
After that she became involved in CLSA and started to organise a branch in Hawston, and today they have 30 members that consist of fishers, women and youth.
Albertyn says that Hawston is a poor community, where only about 50% of the economically active population work.
The community suffers under many socio-economic ills, like drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, gangsterism, health, housing, etc.
As a CLSA branch, Albertyn says that they look at how they can fight against the problem of poverty.
“We mobilise the community to get fishing rights and access to the resources of the sea.”
They have also run programmes on substance abuse, peer education programmes in schools and programmes with unemployed.
“About 50% of the youth who participated in our unemployment programme have managed to find work.”
Albertyn says that they have also set up a broader Community Forum and that they work with other organisations to address the issues under which the community suffers.
However, in some instances the police seem to find themselves to be at odds with what the community wants to achieve, and some people died because of police action and harassment of the community.
In applying the regulations, Albertyn says that the police seem to think that people who makes a living off the ocean without permits should be treated like dogs.
“Once they killed an innocent swimmer, and this caused unrest within the community, and battles broke out between the community and the police.”
Albertyn points out that the small-scale fishers trying to make a living must not be confused with the poachers that are written about so widely.
She says the gangsters exploit the poverty that exists within the community, and hide behind the community to engage in activities that make a few people rich.
As far as fishing rights are concerned, Albertyn says that 79 people have Interim Relief (IR) permits and can fish.
This is good, but a good number of people do not have rights, and for a long time CLSA members did not have any IR permits, until recently.
“Previously CLSA did not have a branch in Hawston, and the SA Artisanal Fishers Association, which had a branch, was issued with the permits”
Albertyn says that they always had a good working relationship with the Artisanal Fishers Association, and when one of their members died, his permit was awarded to a CLSA member.
“In a meeting, the CLSA branch members decided that the IR permit should be awarded to me,” says Albertyn.
Albertyn believes that many, but not all the problems of the small-scale fishers will be solved once the small-scale fishing policy comes into operation, as it will include many more people that are currently taken care of under the IR.
And, as the Provincial Secretary of CLSA in the Western Cape, together with CLSA members, she is working hard to make the implementation of the SSF policy a reality.