On the 15th November 2017, ahead of World Fisheries Day on the 21 November, Coastal Links and Masifundise Development Trust hosted a Roundtable at La Mercy Beach Hotel, Durban.  Entitled Operation Phakisa, the Ocean Economy, Marine Spatial Planning and coastal communities’ livelihoods in Kwa Zulu Natal, this Roundtable aimed to facilitate dialogue amongst key local, provincial and national government, community and civil society stakeholders in Kwa Zulu Natal on Operation Phakisa and the Ocean Economy, the new Marine Spatial Planning Bill and how the imminent implementation of the Small-scale Fisheries Policy will articulate with these policy initiatives and instruments in this province.  For Coastal Links policy dialogue is an important strategy to ensure that the oceans, coastal lands and forests upon which many coastal communities depend for their livelihoods are sustainably and equitably used and protected.

Coastal Links KwaZulu Natal branch comprises representatives of small-scale fishing communities from Kosi Bay in the northern reaches of the province on the Mozambican border to Port Edward in the south.  There are 48 small-scale fishing communities registered with the DAFF in KwaZulu Natal, comprising more than 4000 fishers. These small-scale fishers are still waiting the implementation of the Policy for Small-scale Fisheries in the province and currently none of them are able to enjoy their rights as small-scale fishers in terms of the Policy on Small-scale Fisheries and the Marine Living Resources Act.  This policy was gazetted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in 2012, but to date has yet to be fully implemented in the province.

 At a recent Imbizo held in KwaSokhulu in September, Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable Minister Zokwana assured the fishers that they will have their fishing rights by December. However recent news coverage given to the Presidential programme, Operation Phakisa and the Ocean Economy and the Marine Spatial Planning Bill emerging from Phakisa has worried fishers and coastal communities about the potential impact that these programmes may have on the waters and marine resources that they depend on for their livelihoods and hence the Coastal Links Provincial Executive Committee decision to host a Roundtable with key stakeholders to discuss how Operation Phakisa will impact their livelihoods and their small-scale fishing rights.

 “Operation Phakisa”, meaning “speed up” in a local African language, was launched in 2014 by South African President Jacob Zuma.  Drawing on ideas gained from Malaysia, President Zuma announced that South Africa would embark on this ambitious programme with a view to rescuing the South African economy through large-scale industrial development programmes that draw on the oceans and its resources. He said that Phakisa aims to “unlock the potential of the ocean” and promote “multiple socio-economic benefits”. In line with global neo-liberal and capitalist policies known collectively as ‘the blue economy’, Operation Phakisa aims to fast-track the exploitation of the Ocean Economy in the region through multi-sectoral cooperation and public-private partnerships. Phakisa has four primary pillars namely

  • Offshore Oil and Gas Mining;
  • Marine Transport;
  • Aquaculture; and 
  • Marine protection services and ocean governance.

In addition, marine clusters have been launched to add a focus on Small Harbours and Tourism.  Operation Phakisa does not focus on wild capture fisheries at all, other than through the promotion of marine protection mechanisms such as Marine Protected Areas.

The Roundtable dialogue

Coastal Links and Masifundise invited a range of government departments and civil society stakeholders to the Roundtable funded by the European Union.   The meeting was attended by the national DAFF Fisheries Branch, including both the Working for Fisheries Programme and Compliance, the provincial DAFF, the Provincial KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Regional Local Economic Development department, the Ray Ntlonyana Municipality Local Economic Development Officer, iSimangaliso Wetlands Authority, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife. In addition, the leading non-governmental organisations in the region working on marine and coastal environmental issues, namely South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Groundworks and Earth Life Africa were present.   

The meeting was opened by Mr Israel Mbehele, Chairperson for Coastal Links KZN.  He welcomed the participants and emphasised the importance of this dialogue for coastal communities in the region.  Mr Lindani Ngubane, Masifundise Development Trust fieldworker in the province introduced Masifundise’s work and highlighted the key milestones in the development and growth of Coastal Links and the small-scale fisheries sector in the province.  Jackie Sunde provided a brief overview aimed at “Un-phaking Phakisa from the perspective of small-scale fishing communities”, with a particular emphasis on the human rights based approach of the Policy on SSF.  Key concerns that were flagged was the fact that a review of the Integrated Development Plans (IDP)s of the coastal municipalities revealed that the rights and needs of SSF communities are not on the agendas of government at this level.

 The DEA and DAFF have failed to recognise the customary rights of fishing communities living in and adjacent to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the province, and to date SSF fishers have yet to receive their fishing rights. The Marine Spatial Planning draft Bill tabled in Parliament fails to provide a mechanism that will enable civil society to participate fully and effectively in decision-making about the implementation of Operation Phakisa and other marine and coastal developments.  The draft regulations for 22 MPAs that were gazetted in 2016 in terms of Operation Phakisa failed to recognise small-scale fishers and did not include them in the consultation processes. 

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