On Monday 26 October 2020, representatives of inland small-scale fishing communities from Vanderkloof Dam, Gariep Dam and Jozini Dam participated in the National Roundtable on the Inland Fisheries Policy, hosted by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and gave an account of the challenges they faced as result of Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions.
The National Roundtable, which took place online provided an update on the development of the Inland Fisheries Policy, which is currently in the process of being approved by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).
The meeting was opened by a representative of the National House of Traditional leaders, who emphasised the need to recognise the traditional and customary rights of small-scale inland fishers and provide rural communities with access to natural resources vital for their food security.
Inland fishers from Jozini, Gariep and Vanderkloof dam powerfully and collectively made their voices heard, highlighting the many injustices they faced as a result of the Covid 19 lockdown regulations and lack of inland institutional policy.
Wilfred Sole from Norvalspont, lamented about the continued harassment and criminalisation of fishers at the Gariep Dam. He said that he had been arrested for trespassing in the Oviston Nature Reserve in May.
Confirming the ongoing harassment, December Menyuka, the Coastal Links chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal said private security hired by lodge owners, often chased away fishers, making it very difficult for them to make a living.
Lorenzo Danster, a fisher from Petrusville (Vanderkloof Dam) highlighted the racism and differential treatment that fishers experienced in comparison to recreational fishers when accessing water bodies.
While Masifundise has consistently reported on these challenges through reports, letters and engagements with DEFF, no solution has been put in place in the interim to decriminalise inland fishers while the policy is approved and implemented.