5 March 2014 ( Appeared in the Cape Times on the 7th of March 2014)
I read the article by Pedro Garcia, the chairman and founder of the SA United Fishing Front, with interest. (Cape Times, Monday 3 March 2014)
Our country’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression and so he has a right to his view. But when he speaks about the welfare of the small-scale fishers, I have to stand up and say he does not speak for me.
My friends, family and I are from a long line of traditional fishers in Langebaan. Together with thousands of small-scale fishers from around the country, we took the government to the Equality Court in 2006 when they excluded small-scale fishers in the 2005 fishing allocation. The court ordered the formulation of a new policy that is now in its final stages of adoption.
The small-scale fisheries policy (SSF) is very significant. It gives legal recognition to some 30 000 small-scale fishers, for the first time in history. It goes beyond pure commercial considerations. It restores rights to fishers who were dispossessed of their land and deprived access to the sea over a very long period of time.
The policy moves us from the current position where we have individual quotas to a collective system where fishers can be empowered. We have a vision where fishers can become masters of their own destiny.
The policy was drawn up through a very inclusive process involving many stakeholders, including Mr Garcia and his organisation. It went through Nedlac, Cabinet, the portfolio committee and the National Assembly. It was supported by all political parties, civil society bodies and business groups, almost without expectation.
It is seen as framework for a new chapter for small-scale fishers that puts us on a new path.
Garcia’s article has many false assumptions, inaccuracies and omissions, too many to dwell on.
He does not point out, for example that the 2006 allocations to the 455 individuals were found by a court of law to be discriminatory. Neither does he say that nearly half of them did not use their rights.
What I find most surprising, is that he does not tell the reader that most of the line fishers will are catered for in the new small-scale fisheries policy.
We look forward to the final adoption of the small-scale fisheries policy and will work with many stakeholders in the country to ensure its successful implementation.
No 7 Aamdblom