Coastal Links leader comes from long line of KZN South Coast fishers
ISRAEL Mbhele has always been a fisherman, because he comes from a fishing family, who lived along the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) South Coast for many generations.
Mbhele’s father was a fisherman, and he says his mother was also involved in fishing, harvesting black mussels and other marine resources that can be gathered on the shore and on the rocks, some of which his father used as bait, when he went fishing at night.
Mbhele is the vice chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) in KZN, and joined the organisation in 2012, and he was elected into his post in June 2015.
He hails from Mtwalume near Durban, but is originally from Gcilima, a community that was located by the sea.
They were however removed from there during the apartheid years, and Mbhele says that afterwards, he sometimes had to travel for hours to get to school in Gcilima.
“I completed my schooling up till standard nine in the 1970s, and went to work in some of the factories around here. I was fortunate that during those years you could still do a teachers diploma with a standard nine certificate,” says Mbhele.
In 1974 he enrolled at Adams College and completed his teaching diploma by the end of 1975, and started teaching the next year, until 2010, when he retired.
He says that he taught at primary school level and that his main teaching subject was Afrikaans.
Mbhele catches line-fish from the shores and rocks, and his species include elf, shad, Garrick cob, salmon mullet, bream, yellow tail, black tails, barracuda and rock lobster.
In KZN there is no Interim Relief and most small-scale fishers catch their fish on the subsistence fishing permit, but, Mbhele says this is not the case where they are concerned.
“To catch our fish we use a recreational permit which we buy from the Post Office for R80, we used to be on the subsistence permit, but it was just taken away from us without any consultation.”
To catch his line-fish and his rock lobster, like all the other fishers, Mbhele must pay R180 a year, because the rock lobster permit is a separate permit.
Mbhele finds no difference between the two different permits, the restrictions are the same, but, yet the recreational permit costs R180 per year and the subsistence permits are for free.
“These permits are good for pleasure and tourists, it is not good for creating sustainable livelihoods for our communities.”
“Together with Masifundise and Coastal Links we met with the minister to get an exemption in 2014, but, the minister said we should not rush, as the department will work out a package for us and the Eastern Cape, but this did not materialise, we are still waiting.”
Mbhele is married and the father of eight children and a proud grandfather.
When it comes to fishing, he says that his main problem is the slow implementation of the small-scale fishing policy.
“The implementation takes too long, when it gets implemented, everything will be okay, and we will be getting skills, marketing and other resources, which are in the policy.”
For the future, he would like to see the small-scale fishing policy bring to the fishers access to fish, access roads to the sea, storage facilities, fishing gear like boats and training to manage their businesses and to operate their boats on the water, like skipper training.