Like his ancestors, he lives off the bounty of the sea
Victor Shezi, chairperson of Coastal Links SA in KZN says that he has been fishing since he was at high school, that his parents, his grandparents and his ancestors have all lived off the bounty of the sea for many centuries, until the government started to restrict their fishing activities and issuing permits for environmental protection.
Shezi is from the coastal community of Mthwalume, south of Durban on the South Coast of Kwazulu Natal.
Shezi is 48 years old, he completed his education up to matric, and is the proud father two children, one 15 and the other 21 years old.
“Most of the community is dependent on fishing, and some people work in the tourism industry, in the hotels, B+B’s and other businesses,” says Shezi.
His biggest problem is with KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife Trust, a government agency that does environmental protection work in KZN.
Most people in his community catch fish on the subsistence fishing permit, and the fish they catch and harvest are rock lobster, mussels, cob, black tails, current kings, shad, bream, Garrick and salmon.
“We can catch all of that fish, but are restricted to how many can be caught in a day, and then you can also not sell it.”
Shezi says that there are some fish that the compliance officers of KZN Ezemvelo wildlife allows them to sell, but then you have to make certain on your permits which ones you can sell.
The fish also have seasons in which they can be caught, for instance, lobster is closed between October and March, and most of the other fish are not to be caught in October and November.
He says that the compliance officers of Ezemvelo are very hard on the fishing communities.
“Last year in October, they shot and killed Collin Nombiga, a fisher who lived nearby my place, they accused him of selling lobster.”
“The compliance officers claimed that they were attacked by the community, and that their van was stoned, and that they acted in self-defence.’
Shezi himself does not catch fish on a subsistence permit anymore, he has taken out a recreational permit, which he says allows him a little more freedom.
He does not own a boat and has to catch his fish from the shore, “At night I wait for the tide to go out, I will then set my traps for the lobster.”
Like an angler, he uses a rod, a reel and a line with bait to catch his bounty of the day.
Coastal Links was launched in KZN in 2012, and Shezi joined before then to get the organisation going in the province.
In Mthwalume there is a branch of Coastal Links SA, and through the organisation, Shezi hopes that many changes can be brought about in his community.
In KZN there are also other fishing activities, but Shezi says that most of this benefits the tourism industry and the rich people in the fishing industry.
“The sardine run is a big tourism event which brings a lot of people from Gauteng and other places to KZN, and you will find that the hotels and B+B’s will be full during that time. Our people only benefit a little in that they get temporary jobs in these place for the duration of the sardine run.”
He says that there is also trek-net fishing, where many people put a big net into the sea from the beach, and pull the net onto the beach netting a large amount of fish.
However, he says the permits for that kind of fishing is expensive and there is no way that people in his community will be able to afford it.
For the future and through the Small Scale Fishing (SFF) Policy, Shezi hopes that poverty will be eradicated in all fishing communities.
He wants boats, proper fishing permits, the right to process and processing facilities and access to the fishing markets to be made available to the fishers and the people in his community.
“For me the SSF policy brings the hope that one day we will be recognised as true and real fishers. At the moment we are regarded as poachers, and we have to run like thieves in the night when we see the compliance officers of Ezemvelo.”