Minister Gwede Mantashe
Minister Barbara Creecy
Dear Ministers, Mantashe and Creecy
RE: An Open Letter from under-threat small-scale fishers to the Ministers of Mineral Resources and
Energy and Forestry, Fishing and Environment
We are traditional fishermen and fisherwomen from all along the coast of South Africa, although
most of us are from the Eastern Cape and KZN. Several of us live along the coast where SHELL has
applied for a permit to do seismic testing, but they did not consult us at all.
Minister Mantashe, we have heard you on the radio and read what you said about white people who
are standing up and saying that South Africa should not allow seismic testing and that we should no
longer continue to mine our oceans for oil or gas. You say that they are acting against development
and that this is like apartheid and colonialism. You have said they will make poverty and
unemployment worse. However, what we would like to ask is, do you know how many of us traditional,
subsistence and small-scale fishers depend on the sea for our livelihoods?
Did you listen to what we said in 2016 when the Portfolio Committee on Environment came to ask us
if we wanted the Marine Spatial Planning Bill? Did any of you take us seriously?
Have you heard what we have said to the Operation Phakisa Ocean Economy Master Planning
process that is currently underway? Has Minister Creecy told you what we said to her when we met
with her in April 2021, at the National Workshop she attended with us?
We would also like to ask you why your department did not bother to make sure that Impact and
SHELL consulted us? Do you care so little about our children’s lives and our livelihoods? Both you and
Minister Creecy are neglecting your duty of care towards us and our communities when you do not
ensure that we are consulted and when you do not check that any project that is planned would not
cause harm to the fish we depend on to feed our families or further restrict our access to the ocean.
Are you aware that Oil and Gas mining does not create jobs for poor, ordinary rural coastal
communities who have been marginalized for too long, not just through colonialism and apartheid,
but now also by our own supposedly democratic government, through Operation Phakisa?
Minister Mantashe, we completely reject your simplistic dismissal of the resistance to SHELL. In fact,
we are not only resisting SHELL but we are saying that we, as Black African fishers and ordinary
South Africans, have the RIGHT TO SAY NO TO MINING of any kind, in our region. We know that the
African Charter on Human Rights gives us the right to choose our own path of development and to
do what we want with our natural resources. This is not about the West telling Africans what to do.
As Africans, we have seen what SHELL has done to the livelihoods of Nigerians and
Ghanaian communities. We choose a future for our children that is climate safe, where they will not
be starving because we have destroyed our natural resources.
In fact, are you aware that our legal action cites YOU, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, as the
primary respondent in our case that will be heard on 17 December? We believe that both you and
Minister Creecy have a responsibility, as Trustees of our oceans and coasts and our fish, to protect
them. Seismic testing will impact our fish and other marine animals. Continuing to exploit our
oceans will increase our carbon emissions and take our country into extreme poverty and hunger,
whilst a few will enjoy the wealth. We want wellbeing for all – not wealth for a few! We reject your
attempt to divide the powerful opposition to Oil and Gas mining of our oceans. We call on all South
Africans to please to stand up and join in our efforts to protect our oceans.
Blaming white environmentalists, to us, is a demonstration of your arrogance and unwillingness to
listen to us, the people of the coast – the people of Port St Johns, of Centane, of Dwesa-Cwebe, of
Xolobeni, of Amathole region. It also saddens us, as it makes us think that you believe that we are
unable to think or decide for ourselves how we wish our communities to be developed. You insult us
if you imply that this is only their struggle. This is all of our struggle. The sea is our Great Home. It is
the source of all life and is a sacred place as it is the home of many of our Ancestors. We are angry
that you dare to question our beliefs and our choices. We ask you to respect our culture, our lives
and our livelihoods and protect the future of all.
Coastal Links Eastern Cape
Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC)
Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association (CPA)