SMALL scale fishers at Vanderkloof Dam in the Northern Cape had both good and bad results coming from a Task Team Meeting at the dam on Monday 14 March 2016.

The Task Team is part of the process looking at setting up an experimental project at the dam to create food security for the communities of Phillipstown, Petrusville and Keurkieskloof in the Northern Cape.

The project is part of the government’s Operation Phakisa. Rhodes University is a key facilitator and other stakeholders, including Masifundise, are participating in various capacities.

As the project has unfolded, the idea arose of using the fishing kraals in the dam as a source of income for poor fishers. The kraal initiative is separate from the fishery experimentation project which is looking at the potential of creating sustainable incomes through fishing in the dam.

The great news is that the task team meeting decided that fishers will now be legally recognised to take out fish from the kraals, and they will get permits which will allow them to take out a certain amount of fish.

In February, Masifundise, on behalf of the fishers, wrote to the Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, requesting that the kraal fishing be legalised. The letter also asked for leniency regarding a kraal situated in the security zone as it was the most productive of the 10 kraals along the river….   productive enough to address the issue of poverty in many communities around the dam.

If properly implemented, this will enhance the ability of poor communities to generate an income through fishing.

The bad news, according to Rhodes University’s Qurban Rouhani is that fishers will not be allowed to use nets as part of the broader experimentation project.

Rouhani said that they were informed in the meeting by the Department of Nature Conservation in the Northern Cape, that it would not be possible for the fishers to make use of nets to fish in the dam.

This Rouhani believed brought to nought more than a year’s work on the dam and with communities, as it was previously agreed that the fishers would be allowed to fish with nets in a certain section of the dam.

Lorenzo Danster, chairperson of the Petrusville Gemeenskaps Vissers Gemeenskap, said that it was requested in the meeting that the lights be switched on for the fishers to fish at night.

“The meeting ordered that a contractor be appointed to fix the electricity supply to the lights,” said Danster.

Danster said that once again the police were not present in the meeting, and that they keep on harassing the fishers.

“They said they cannot take orders from decisions taken in meetings that they were not present. They said all they know is the law that they have to apply, and according to them, the kraals are illegal.”

Basie Coetzee, chairperson of the Luckhoff Vissers Gemeenskap, said that he is happy that a representative of the minister of Water and Sanitation was present at the meeting.

“The letter that was sent to the minister had an effect and we spoke to her after the meeting and explained our case to her,” said Coetzee.

He is hopeful that positive results will come from the minister’s involvement through her representative in the project.

Rouhani said that everything will be done to get Nature Conservation to issue permits for nets to be used during the implementation of the project.

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