Activist Nico Waldeck, who has been a fieldworker at Masifundise for more than 10 years, is leaving Masifundise.

“I have been involved with Masifundise since 2003,” he says.

“I was recruited by the late Elise Petersen who was the fieldworker of Masifundise at the time. I started as a community leader and was at a later stage appointed as a fieldworker/community development worker at Masifundise. “

Before that, Nico says that he was involved in fishing, line fish, catching west coast lobster, doing deep sea fishing and long-line for a year, and he also worked in a pilchard canning factory.

And, through his work in the canning factory and as a fisher, he became involved in fishing and community struggles.

“Growing up in a fishers’ household I was from a very young age aware about the exploitation of fishers, how difficult it has become over the years for fishers to get access rights to their livelihoods. Since Grade Eight (1984), I was involved in student politics and from there in the Youth Congress and the UDF.”

Nico has many fond and memorable experiences while working at Masifundise, and about the struggles of the fishing communities all over South Africa.

He says that there are so many of which are; “… the public hearings in Kalk Bay in 2003, the launch of Coastal Links in 2004 in Langebaan, the changing tide action in Paternoster, the Kenneth George Court Case, working with the MDT staff under the leadership of Naseegh Jaffer.”

Nico’s work at Masifundise allowed him to be involved with many exciting and valuable programmes and projects, some of which include the old Environmental Evaluation Project at UCT and the Legal Resources Centre, PLAAS and others.

Nico spoke about some of the activities he has been involved in, which include;

  • Organising small scale fishers, uniting them under the banner of Coastal Links, and helping in the building and growth of Coastal Links as a national organisation.
  • Helping with the development and writing of the new small scale-fishing policy.
  • The Oral History Project with the Olifants River Fishers, which was jointly done between Masifundise, the old Environmental Evaluation Unit at UCT and the Legal Resources Centre.
  • The court challenges in which small scale-fishers took on the big commercial fishing companies that wanted to deny small scale fishers fishing rights.
  • Work on the Abalobi Project, which aims to develop an App for small-scale fishers.
  • The defiance campaign in Paternoster that unlocked positive talks between the fishers and DAFF.

Nico says that the challenging part of his work at Masifundise has always been to keep the spirit of the communities high with all the challenges they are facing, including the influence of marketers that seeks to divide communities, and the delay in the implementation of the small-scale fishing policy.

“And how could I forget the role played by the fishers with Louis Jansen (Pappa Loe) as the main character – small scale fishers versus big business. I feel very honoured to have worked with one of the most honest, trustworthy and humble leaders, the late Mr Pieter Cloete of Ebenhaeser,” he says.

Nico says that fishing is in his blood, and that he would never find himself outside the fishing community, and that he still has his fishing tackle.

“In the years I have been working at Masifundise, the most memorable for me would always be that I was part of the fishers struggle for the right to continue with their livelihoods, who participated in writing the small scale fishing policy.”

“Never forget where we come from, because it would help us to identify our friends and remind us of what we are up against,” is the last message Nico says he wants to give to all at Masifundise and Coastal Links SA.

Naseegh Jaffer, director at Masifundise, says that the organisation recognise and value the valuable contributions Nico has made to the struggles of fishers, not only locally, but also globally.

“He has been a cog in the wheel that has kept the struggle of fishers going, it is sad to lose him. Masifundise and Coastal Links wish Nico well for his future plans,” says Jaffer.




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