23 August 2021
For immediate release
Masifundise has learnt with total dismay and shock at the continued harassment and criminalisation of legitimate small-scale fishing rights holders in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal.
On 18 August 2021 a group of small-scale fishers from Port Shepstone were accosted by government marine patrollers and the South African Police Service (SAPS) while transporting harvested South Coast Rock Lobster. These local authority agencies physically assaulted these fishers despite them were carrying the appropriate permits and rightful paperwork for their fishing activities.
“When the police stopped us, they did even wait for us to show them our papers. They accused us of being poachers and then proceeded to intimidate us by shoving their guns in our faces. They kicked me repeatedly while I fell to the ground,” recalled Abongile Mbambo a small-scale fishing rights holder.
“The trauma of that day has stripped me of my dignity, I was humiliated in broad daylight and my human rights were made meaningless. Its not right that I treated like that when I did nothing wrong”, continued Mbambo.
Acts of violence towards those securing their livelihoods cannot be condoned. Small-scale fishers all along the coast live in fear despite having recognised rights that were granted to them by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE).
The lack of clear and co-ordinated communication between DFFE and local law enforcement agencies regarding the activities of small-scale fishers has left fishing communities totally vulnerable towards violence from authorities.
Masifundise demands that the Department puts measures in place to facilitate the protection of small-scale fishers. We further urge government to engage with local authorities on their conduct with small-scale fishers. Those found contravening the rights of small-scale fishers must be brought to book.
It must be stopped!