Bid to get government to abide by decade old court ruling

Masifundise and Coastal Links will be going back to the Equality Court to ensure that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sticks to the provisions of a court order that was made many years back.

RECENTLY, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), acting on behalf of Masifundise and Coastal Links, sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), requesting a meeting to discuss the splitting of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

The letter was sent to DAFF on 19 February and they were given four days to respond. Mandla Gqamlana, programme manager at Masifundise, said that up to now DAFF has only sent a one line response, acknowledging receipt of the letter and asking one of their officials to take up the matter. Since then, there has been no further communication.

The position of the small-scale fishers is that the allocation goes against the 2007 Equality court ruling that called for the development of a small-scale fisheries policy and the equitable allocation of resources.

The current allocation, according to small-scale fishers, will benefit commercial fishers and disadvantage small-scale fishers.

Masifundise, Coastal Links and its partners recently mandated the Legal Resources Centre to take the matter back to the Equality Court, for relief.

At a Cosatu meeting recently, where small-scale fishers from the Coast and other stakeholders were well represented, a decision was taken to engage in mass action on this critical issue.

Coastal Links branches are presently preparing for different forms of action, to ensure that initial order of the court is respected and implemented.

Two weeks ago, in The Hook, Gqamlana said that the Equality Court case has never been closed, that it has merely been postponed until such time as the government has implemented the provisions of the court ruling.

“The writing of the small scale fishery policy, the amendment to the MLRA and the promulgation of the regulations and the implementation of the policy, are only part of the ruling of the court,” said Gqamlana.

Overall, Gqamlana said that the ruling of the Equality Court was for the realisation of the socio economic rights of the small scale fishing community in South Africa. He said that DAFF must come out publicly and say what the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) will be.

“How the resources are split, is an important part of the realisation of fishers’ socio-economic rights, because it will determine if the implementation of the policy will lead to fishers acquiring their socio-economic rights. The policy implementation might be meaningless and not make a dent.”

The decision to consider possible court action was taken by Masifundise, Coastal Links, Legal Resources and several other stakeholders at a round-table meeting in February this year.