Fighting for fishing, land and agricultural opportunities for his community

ONE of Ayanda Yekani’s greatest wishes is that the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy will broaden the area in which he and fellow fishers are able to harvest marine resources.

Yekani is from the small town of Hamburg, near East London in the Eastern Cape, and says that he mostly fishes at the mouth of the Keiskamma River, where it runs into the sea.

He and other fishers from his community fish on a subsistence fishing permit and are only allowed to fish within a 52km radius, between the Mtekweni and Chalumna Rivers along the Eastern Cape coastline.

On their subsistence, Yekani says that he and his fellow fishers can catch a variety of species, which includes cob, East Coast Rock Lobster, Steenbras, grander, mussels and oysters.

“We mainly catch line fish from the shore and at the mouth of the rivers, inside the rivers we mainly catch fish that we use for bait.”

“We would like to catch the East Coast Rock Lobster, but they are not to be found in the waters of the 52km radius in which we are allowed to catch and harvest fish.”

Yekani who is 48 years old, was born in Hamburg, which falls within the Ngqushwa District, which is about 72km from East London.

Here he completed his schooling up to Standard Nine, upon which he was forced to go and find work due to financial constraints.

He moved out to Port Elizabeth, where he found employment at Livingstone Hospital, where he worked for five years.

After that he stayed and worked in many temporary posts, until he moved back to Hamburg in 1993, where he was again working in temporary positions.

In 1996, he became a local councillor, after, as he put it, the community placed their trust in him and elected him into public office.

“I served the community for five years, but after 2000, the boundaries were redrawn, and the municipal area was made bigger, and I felt that it was better to give some younger people the opportunity to do something for the community.”

Yekani says that he stepped aside and took employment as a supervisor at Coast Care, a community job creation project under the Expanded Public Works Programme.

“Coast Care was a beach cleaning up operation that provides employment to members of the community.”

As part of his employment at Coast Care, Yekani took part in business skills training programmes, and also put some youngsters on a diving course programme, to equip them with diving skills for the purpose of abalone harvesting.

“I, myself could not be part of the diving training programme as I was too old, they only wanted youngsters from between 18 and 25 years old.”

Since his father was always fishing on weekends and during the holidays, when he was off from work, to provide extra income for the family, Yekani also started taking up fishing in 2000.

“Both my parents were in fishing, although my father worked full-time, he fished in his spare-time, and my mother harvested abalone to feed our family.”

Yekani is a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) in the Eastern Cape.

In 2006, Yekani was elected as the chairperson of the local fishing organisation in his community.

“For the first time we met Masifundise and CLSA in 2007, after which we started talking about forming CLSA.”

CLSA National was eventually formed in 2013 and the Eastern Cape became part of the national CLSA.

Yekani says that he is waiting anxiously for the implementation of the SSF policy, so that his area of harvesting can be widened, to allow them to catch rock lobster and other more profitable species like abalone.

For development in a broader context for his community, Yekani believes that his community must also fight for changes in other areas like land reform and farming opportunities.

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