On 16 November 2022, three inland small-scale fishers from Norvalspont were charged with “unlawfully entering or remaining in a special nature reserve or world heritage site” in the Eastern Cape, while fishing to put food on the table. They were each fined R1000, to be paid by 6 December 2022, or to appear in the Venterstad Magistrate Court on 13 December 2022.

The small community of Norvalspont is located in the Northern Cape, as well as on the border of Eastern Cape and Free State. Fishing in the Orange River and at Gariep Dam provides a livelihood and food for the inland small-scale fishers of this community.

This is an impoverished community, and access to natural resources is an important part of ensuring their food security as well as a small income for those who partake in fishing activities.

The local fishers have been active on the Orange River for generations, and when the Gariep Dam was built in 1971, fishers began making use of the dam for a livelihood.

Currently, there are certain areas along the river in which fishers cannot access due to Nature Conservation or private land ownership. This inhibits the ability of inland small-scale fishers to put food on the table and boost economic activity through fishing.

“These three fishers cannot afford to pay the fine, and have been forced to access the river illegally, due to their limited access to the natural resources and their need to find alternative means of ensuring food and income” said Maia Nangle, Project officer at Masifundise.

Unemployment is rife in this community, and fishing provides an alternative source of income. Inland small-scale fishers need to be recognised and prioritised as food producers in their communities, and be given access to traditional fishing grounds.