Persistent flaws in the Interim Relief system are playing havoc with the lives of thousands of people in Small-scale fishing communities across the Western and Northern Cape.

The late issuing of permits, the inclusion of non-fishers in beneficiary lists and general mismanagement by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) deprives fishers of sustainable livelihoods and is causing conflict in communities.

There are persistent allegations of corruption in the allocation process.

In 2005 when the government adopted long-term fishing policies that made no provision for small-scale fishers. Masifundise took the matter to the Equality Court in 2006. By 2007 the court ruled that a new policy must be developed and an interim relief package for small-scale fishers be formulated and implemented. The Interim Relief Permit system was meant to provide temporary relief to fishers who did not benefit from Long Term Rights

Interim Relief arrangements, which began in 2007, were meant to be in place for two years. But the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy was only finally adopted this year and implementation is yet to proceed. Meanwhile the IR system continues – and so do the inefficiencies, mismanagement and general dysfunctionality.

“If the problems around IR happened once or twice, we could have written them off as teething problems,” said Christian Adams, national chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa. CLSA represents 4 000 fishers countrywide.

“But permits are delayed each year, beneficiary lists are tainted by mismanagement and corruption and department records of fishing patterns appear to be in tatters”, he said.

“DAFF seems incapable of managing this process and the result is immense suffering for fishing communities”, he concluded.

Masifundise Development Trust and Coastal Links are once more embarking on protest action to correct the situation and want the IR system to be brought to an end immediately.

“The proper implementation of the SSF policy will put an end to this arrangement and start the process of empowering communities”, said Mr Adams.

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