Vanderkloof fishers angry over blocking of access to dam

Despite the local fishers at Vander Kloof Dam been given permission at the last Task Team Meeting in March to harvest their fish from the kraals at the dam, by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the local DWS branch at Vander Kloof Dam, continues to deny fishers access to harvest the fish.

This comes after the hole in the fence that the fishers have been using to access the kraals was unilaterally closed by the management of the Vander Kloof Dam, without consulting anybody.

The fishers of Luckhoff discovered that the hole in the fence was closed on Friday April 15, when they came to empty the kraals.

“When we arrived at the dam, a fisher who lives near the dam told us that the hole in the fence has been closed by two workers from the dam and a senior staff member on Thursday April 14,” said Johannes ‘Basie’ Steenkamp, chairperson of the Luckhoff Vissers Gemeenskap.

Steenkamp said that he does not understand what is happening, since it was decided that the fishers will have access to the kraals, and he wants to know where the dam’s management gets the mandate from to close the fishers’ access to the kraals.

“That is the only way that we have access to the kraals? We used the hole in the fence as an access point to collect data for the experimental project. Not only is this working against the collection of data and retarding the implementation of the project, but it is also denying the fishers from earning a living and putting food on our tables.”

I travelled twice in the last week from Luckhoff to Vander Kloof to come and collect fish, but we could not get in, I wasted a lot money in the process, and was not able to earn any money from selling fish.”

Lorenzo Danster, chairperson of the Lutzhoff Vissers Gemeenskap is of the opinion that the management of Vander Kloof Dam is working against the decisions taken by DWS at a national level, and that the national government and the fishers at Vander Kloof Dam is of no consequence to them.

“We could not take out any fish for a week, that means that fishers and their families did not have the ability to earn sustainable livelihoods for a whole week,” said Danster.

Danster said that the management at the dam were given instructions at the last Task Team Meeting to switch on the lights in the security area, but they did not do it, once again showing no regard for the decisions taken by the Task Team.

“Vander Kloof people know that we have been using the hole in the fence to access the kraals for a long time now, and that we do not have any other way to access the kraals.

If they wanted to repair their fences, they should have made alternative arrangements to allow the fishers access to the kraals, because the last Task Team Meeting and the representative of the minister of DWS made it clear that the fishers must have access to the kraals.”

Danster also said that where the hole is, there is nothing that anybody can steal, and that the fishers are generally safe in the area, since they know how the turbines work and would not create a security hazard.

Danster also says that the only other access to the kraals were through an old broken metal step-ladder, which they cannot use.

“If we should use the stepladder, many fishers will get hurt, and because we did not bring any cutting tools with us, the hole in the fence remained close for a week until some fishers eventually decided to cut it open again.”

Raphael Benadie, the chairperson of the Keurkieskloof Vissers Gemeenskap, said that he was angry when he discovered the closing of the only access point to the kraals for the fishers.

“Why did they have to close it, and if they had to close it, why did they not provide the fishers with alternative access points,” said Benadie.

He said that the farmers around Vander Kloof Dam has access to that area through keys that they have with which they can open the gates that has been put up around the dam.

Benadie said that the management at the dam has never in the past opened the gates to the dam to the fishers and others within their communities, and that the fishers had to make holes in the fence to gain access.

“This hole in the fence has been made many years ago by the fishers, and has been our access to the kraals all this time.”

“The closing of the hole in the fence is destroying a good relationship that the fishers developed with the DWS.”

Benadie said that the management at the dam should take into consideration that the kraal fishery plays an important role in creating sustainable livelihoods, keeping many children at school, and even some youngsters at university.

Benadie said that he was so cross about this that he considered not to take part in the Protocols Workshop on April 26, since it makes no sense to show people how to be safe when emptying the kraals, when they are denied access to the kraals.

Danster said that he also wanted to withdraw from the workshop and the Task Team, since the members of his community told him that he is sitting in meetings with people from the Dam, but in the meantime the dam management closes their access to the kraals.

Despite this, the fishers attended the workshop and are still sticking to decisions taken at the Task Team level.

Benadie says that he is however happy for the decision that was taken that they should attend the workshop to raise their concerns there, which in the end brought about a positive result.

“The workshop decided that the hole in the fence will remain open until such time as the fishers are properly trained and issued with a letter which will allow them to fish at the dam.

“This letter will be ready by May 4, and afterwards the gates will be opened to the fishers, representatives of the fishers will be issued with keys to the gates, and we will be allowed to enter the dam from access points best suited for our purposes,” Benadie concluded.

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