By Moegsien Ismail
The poverty and hardships of the communities linked to fishing in the Vanderkloof Dam are visibly clear as you enter these communities, as opposed to the opulence, wealth and beauty you find in the small business district and the area in which the white residents live.
Remnants of the apartheid era is not only displayed in the wealth that the legacy of apartheid and colonialism left the white residents of this community, but also in the deeds of some, making many of the black residents of these small Northern Cape fishing communities feel that they still live under apartheid.
However, it should be noted, that this display of apartheid era behaviour is not prevalent amongst all white residents, and that many if not most display an attitude of having accepted a non-racial and democratic society.
Amongst this hardships, poverty and harassment, it seems like the small scale fishers in these communities also have a way of poking fun at their problems.
For instance they say that many times they are stopped by white government officials, especially the police, and a particular policeman who will remain nameless, and some farmers.
They will be searched and their fish will be searched and all the large mouth yellow fish (LY) will be taken from them.
The LY will always be taken from them, depending on who searched them and the mood of the people, sometimes their other fish will also be taken.
The fishers believe that there is a reason for this kind of funny behaviour. They say some people believe you can find a diamond or diamonds in the stomachs of the LY.
The reason for this is that the LY is one of those fish whose feeding consists of sucking, and that it has tremendous sucking power.
The legend is therefore that the LY can suck diamonds from the bottom of the Orange River.
The fishers believe that the legend have now taken hold amongst those who oppress them daily that they do not want them to catch the LY, should they catch it, they want them to release it back into the water, because they do not want the small-scale fishers to become rich.
It is believed that this legend has made one farmer to buy up lots of farms along the Orange River to the value of R115m so far, and should the opportunity present itself, the small scale fishers believe he will buy up more farms.
Fishers from Luckhof in the Free State, says that their forefathers have been fishing along the Orange River for many generations and that they have been harvesting fish from fishing kraals that they and their grandparents have found there.
But, for the last three years they have been denied access to these kraals by a farmer, who have just totally taken control of government property, and that the government is not doing anything about it.
In another instance they say, two of their fishers were severely beaten by two farmers at Vanderkloof Dam and afterwards thrown into the river.
And, this case they say just ended up nowhere, with the farmers not spending a single minute in jail.
‘Tinkie’ is a fisher at Vander Kloof Dam, and if he is as fast and sharp as his mouth is, you can believe his story that he is the fastest fisher at the dam and that he hauls in a load of fish per day.
His main gripe is with the police, but, mainly with a certain police officer, who seems to be harassing him on a regular basis, takes his fish and throws it into the river.
Tinkie believes that this is polluting the waters and that it will kill not only the fish but also other life forms finding sanctuary in the waters of the river.
He adamantly states that in no way does he allows his fellow fishers to harvest smaller fish they find in the kraals.
Tinkie and other fishers who were at the dam at the time of our visit, says that they are in many instances dependent on the generosity of strangers, and in most cases white people who will give them lifts home with their catch of the day.
The fishers from Petrusville for instance explained that they will have to stay overnight, gut all their fish and hitch-hike home the next day.
Tinkie and the fishers from Keurkieskloof say they admire a gentleman called ‘Oubie’ (shortened for Oubaas), who always helps them, and who would come to the river to help them take their fish back to Keurkieskloof.
Some fishers also reported that they find it a bit disheartening that from all the hardships and oppression they suffer from some white people, they now also start to get harassed and robbed by their own people when they go and harvest the kraals during the day.
They allege that some of the workers of the Department of Waterworks will throw them with stones when they go to the kraals.
They claim the Waterworks workers will then go to the kraals and empty it themselves, robbing them of their means to earn sustainable livelihoods.