Private developments in Stilbaai and surrounding areas are eroding the livelihoods of traditional fishing communities.

This was one of the observations made by Masifundise fieldworker Michelle Joshua when she visited these areas recently to help organise fishers who felt excluded from developments taking place within the SSF sector and to set up branches of Coastal Links South Africa.

She was astounded to discover local fishing communities that are living under constant threats of their livelihoods eroded through private developments.

A case of gentrification can be made for these communities, as fishers are daily confronted by fences preventing them from entering fishing grounds that used to be freely available to them in the past.

Anna-marie Warnick, a fisher from Vermaaklikheid, a community about 35km from Stilbaai, said that since around 2004, they have experienced an influx of people from Cape Town and Johannesburg building holiday homes in Vermaaklikheid, and one person from Cape Town, bought a farm and wanted to turn it into a nudist beach.

“These people, mostly English-speaking folk, cause a lot of problems in our community. They build homes which stand empty for most of the year,” said Warnick.

“We now found fences in many places, limiting our access to the river. Our children cannot play at the places which used to be our recreational spots.”

“We used to swim at ”The Point’ (Die Puntjie), but they have now decided to turn it into a dirt dumping ground, and have denied our communities access to that place.”

Warnick believes that besides eroding the fishers’ abilities to earn a decent living, it also contributes to crime in the community.

Joshua explained that the rights of fishers in the whole area have been limited through fences that have been put all over the areas, to the sea and the rivers.

“The people from Vermaaklikheid traditionally fished in the river and also access the sea through the river,” said Joshua.

Joshua believes that because Vermaaklikhied is isolated and can be regarded as an ‘off the beaten track” kind of community, access to information and knowledge of basic human rights is limited.   This, together with restrictions to the river over the years, has made it increasingly difficult for the fishers to access their livelihoods.

Joshua further believes that because their access to the river at Vermaaklikheid has been restricted, it is becoming more difficult by the day for the fishers to access the rivers and the sea, since more and more fences could be erected in the future.

In Vermaaklikheid the fishers community has been resettled on a koppie far from the banks of the river where they used to live, and in the place of their community there now only stands holiday homes.

Warnick is the only person that they could not move from her land, and Joshua says that on her property people have stored their belongings they could not fit into the small houses that was built for them on the koppie.

To Warnick it seems that as public facilities in the new South Africa opened up to everyone, the rich and powerful found a new way of still enjoying natural resources only for themselves, by buying up large tracts of land in remote rural areas for their exclusive at the expense of the poor fisher community of Vermaaklikheid..

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial