To: All media

Date: 17 May 2023

Subject:  Small-scale fishers in South Africa do not support oil and gas development on their oceans

On 16 May 2023 the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), Gwede Mantashe, presented his Budget Vote Speech 2023/24 to parliament. The speech spoke to the department’s objectives and their plans to solve the ongoing energy crisis that the country currently faces.

In his speech, Minister Mantashe states as part of the country’s ocean economy agenda, Operation Phakisa:

“In 2022, we undertook consultations in seven kingdoms and fishing communities in the Eastern, Northern, and Western Cape Provinces. The consultations helped us appreciate real and prevailing sentiments about oil and gas developments. These sit in contrast to lobby groups, mostly foreign-funded, that pit the development needs of poor communities against their own self- serving, self-proclaimed protection of the environment.”

It has been made clear by small-scale fishers and coastal communities that they do not support oil and gas developments in their ocean. Despite this clear rejection, coastal communities continue to be inundated with oil and gas exploration applications that threaten the health of the marine environment. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has made small-scale fishing communities vulnerable to offshore exploration of oil and gas.

Oil and gas developments destroy the environment, and threaten local communities. These developments undermine the livelihoods and rights of small-scale fishing communities who rely on the ocean and the ocean resources for food and income.

Minister Mantashe’s statements came at a crucial time as representatives from fishing communities all along the coastline are meeting for the annual Small-scale Fishers National Strategic Forum, hosted by Masifundise and Coastal Links. As part of the forum, they reiterated their concerns and opposition to the development of oil and gas projects in the ocean.

“We say no to oil and gas developments, we never said yes. If these developments start extraction all over the coast, as small-scale fishers our livelihoods and fishing communities are threatened” says Zingisa Ludude from Lusikisiki, Ndengane village, Eastern Cape.

Sabelo Mzileni from Nibela village, Kwa-Zulu Natal noted that, “There will be serious impacts on the livelihoods of small-scale fishing communities. We are always promised by government and companies that this will help develop our communities but we fail to see how oil and gas will benefit to us.”

“Oil and gas developments will interfere with our fishing rights. These developments prevent us [fishers] from accessing our fishing grounds to harvest species. Respect our culture, our traditions and respect our customary and fishing rights.” said Camelita Mostert from Saldanha Bay, Western Cape.

Neville Van Rooy from the Green Connection said “The multi-national companies like Total Energies and Shell are foreign companies that are being favoured to trash communities right to a healthy ocean. In my view, as noticed by a similar meeting in Hondeklip Bay, the communities that favour the minister’s dysfunctional climate change idea for more oil and gas are his politically affiliated delegates, and that does not speak to masses of fishing communities’ livelihoods on the ground.”

“We oppose oil and gas developments. This will directly impact my livelihood and household to a point where I am not able to feed them” said Vanessa Chalk from KZN Subsistence Fisherfolk.

Mvuso Ntombele from South Durban Community Environmental Alliance expressed that “We cannot just stand here and watch how the DMRE allows for the ocean to be taken over. It is unacceptable. Fisherfolks depend on the natural marine resources to put food on the table and abusing the ocean will kill the very same fish that feeds fishing communities.”

“It is interesting and concerning that there a number of oil and gas agencies and corporations are forking out large sums of money to reach fishing communities and to try and convince them to favour oil and gas developments despite their clear rejection to it” said Carmen Mannarino from Masifundise.

In spite of their continued opposition to oil and gas exploration, fishing communities continue to be undermined and ignored. The government cannot continue to ignore this rejection and create the impression that fishing communities support these development projects.

This statement is supported by:

The Green Connection

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)

Natural Justice


For media enquiries contact:

Jordan Volmink:


Carmen Mannarino:





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