FISHERS from Kwazulu Natal fear that the implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Policy will be delayed, because the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has yet to appoint a service provider.
Lindani Ngubane, Masifundise Fieldworker in Kwazulu Natal says that this came about because the DAFF decided to make Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife the service provider to implement the SSF policy.
“The people did not like this decision, because they had many problems with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and when the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries visited the communities in KZN, the communities complained about this,” says Ngubane.
Whether the community’s concerns were taken into consideration is hard to tell, but when they got back to parliament, Ngubane says they recommended that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife not be appointed and that the DAFF should start afresh to appoint a service provider.
Although this is a triumph for the community, it also put the small-scale fishers in KZN behind the other provinces, who all have already appointed services providers.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, is also one of the areas of great concern to small-scale fishers in KZN.
This is a typical case of how local communities have been disowned in the name of nature conservation under the previous colonial and apartheid governments, and where the present democratic government has not restored the community’s rights and traditional practices in order to protect the environment.
From Kosi Bay, up to St. Lucia and even as far as the border of Mozambique, communities have been dispossessed to make way for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
“People are denied to fish there, and DEA makes it very difficult for people to earn a living in the park.”
Ngubane says they do not allow any activity from the community in the park, no boats, no fishing.
“But the tourists can do boating and fishing, it seems like the park is just there for the tourists to enjoy, but not for the local people, and the local communities are suffering.”
In KZN, people do not have Interim Relief like they have in other provinces, and fishers are only issued with subsistence fishing permits.
“This is killing us, as we are only allowed to catch up to four fish per day for us to eat, which we cannot sell to make a living.”
“Out of desperation, some fishers even bought recreational fishing permits at the Post Office to fish in iSimangaliso, but iSimangaliso refused them to fish there. People felt that they were robbed, because they paid for a permit which they could not fish with.”
Ngubane says that during the apartheid years, their communities have been forcibly removed from places where they were thriving and lived sustainable lives through the ocean and the land.
“The government put a lot of restrictions to make it difficult for us to live sustainable lives. This caused a lot of suffering, we lost our access to the sea, we lost grazing land for our animals, and the land on which we cultivated vegetables and fruit.”
Ngubane says that many of the communities surrounding the iSimangaliso Wetland Park are denied access to cemeteries where their families and ancestors are buried.
“We were looking after nature long before the iSimangaliso Wetland Park came into existence,” says Ngubane.
Ngubane says that there is a lot of poverty in the fishing communities in KZN, especially those adjacent to nature conservation parks like iSimangaliso and those managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Now a solution needs to be found that will allow small-scale fishers to earn a living until the SSF policy come into effect.