Solene Smith, chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa in Langebaan says that she is upbeat and optimistic that their court case against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and SAnParks in the Cape Town High Court will be successful.Movie Rings (2017)
The Langebaan fishing community lodged their case in the High Court in August 2013, and on June 7, after numerous false starts, their case finally came before a judge.
Through this court case, the Langebaan fishers are making a case to have their right to a sustainable livelihood restored, which was taken away from them when they were prohibited from fishing in Zone B in the Langebaan Lagoon, which is also a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
Smith’s optimism comes from what she witnessed in court and the things that the judge said on the day of the court case.
“Our lawyers from Legal Resources Centre (LRC) teared them apart,” says Smith referring to the legal counsel of the government.
“On why the white commercial fishers are allowed to fish in Zone B, the state argued that Zone B is near to where the white fishers live, and that it would cost them a lot in petrol money should they be forced to go and fish in Zone A, as the small-scale fishers does.”
Smith says that the judge said that he finds that argument humorous, and that they should be ashamed for excluding people from earning a living, people who are in need of the right to fish, but on the other hand to grant that right to others who are not in such great need of that right, just to help them save some petrol money.
“It seems like the poor people are not taken into account, the judge said, he also indicated that the person who did research for the government, were not independent , and that he would more likely accept the research data from the other researchers,” said Smith.
She also said that the judge had high praise for their legal team who put forward a well-thought-out, well researched and well-documented case for the court.
“I want to say to the fishers that everything you do are worth it, your legal team are doing great work, they really presented a good case, and as fishers you should be proud, is how the praised our legal team, he even said that it was a pleasure to have our advocate in the court,” said Smith.
Smith also said that the judge their exclusion from Zone B is racist and that it is plain to see that the Langebaan fishing community are being discriminated against.
On the other hand, Smith says that the representatives of SAnParks were not happy when they left, and that they have mentioned many things in their arguments, some of which the judge said was not about the issues before the court.
She says that SAnParks argued against the fact that people have been fishing in Zone C, and that they hope to close Zone B entirely to fishing.
These things, Smith said the judge said is against their own legislation, since they have to apply co-management in managing the resources, since closing Zone B by their own will go against the implementation of the co-management policy.
Norton Dowries, a Langebaan fisher and chairperson of CLSA Western Cape, said that he is also positive, because SAnParks did not do proper homework in preparing for the case.
“I am positive, our advocate kept the best for last,” said Dowries.
“Almost the whole court gallery consisted of fishers from Langebaan, and the judge could see that there were fishermen, women and youth present in the court, and that the community is dependent on the issue for what we came to the court.”
Dowries said that the government presented a bad court case, because they came to talk about white fishers who needed to save petrol money, but not taking into consideration the poor fishers of Langebaan.
“The case started late, we were supposed to start at 9am, but we only managed to start 12pm and all 32 Langebaan fishers and our supporters listened to the case until 5pm,” said Dowries.
“The judge adjourned the case, and indicated that he will give us a verdict in about six weeks’ time,” said Smith.