On 23rd September, net- fishers from Struisbaai and Langebaan descended upon Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) en masse to demand their long- awaited net fishing permits. This demand was based on the Equality Court Order signed by Judge Nathan Erasmus (in an application brought by Masifundise and the fishers) on 5 July 2010 wherein the court instructed DAFF and the Minister to issue fishing permits to these fishers because of their exclusion from the fishery as a result of the implementation of the Long Term Policy in 2005.
Subsequent to the Court Order, DAFF did issue permits to these net-fishers but these expired on 29 August 2011. At least two months before the permits expired, the fishers and Masifundise reminded the Department that it will expire and that renewals will have to be ready in time as this is the only form of income for these fishers. This request was repeatedly done telephonically by fishers and in numerous emails and meetings with officials from the department. When, by the 21 September no indication was given that the permits will be issued, Masifundise and Coastal Links supported the net – fisher’s decision to protest outside the DAFF offices to demand their permits as the Court Order clearly states that it remains effective until a new small-scale fishery policy is promulgated and implemented. Since the new policy has not yet been promulgated, DAFF and the Minister were effectively in contravention of the Equality Court Order.
In a media statement, dated 21 September, Naseegh Jaffer, Director of Masifundise, said that “Government is seriously insensitive to the plight of poor fishers. The Minister and her department should be ashamed to trample on the dignity of people who want to earn an honest living”.
Less than 90 minutes into the protest, the permits were issued. The fishers expressed mixed feelings. On the one hand, they were relieved that they could once again provide for their families, but on the other hand, and expressed their disappointed in the Minister and her Department. They felt that the protest could have been avoided and that they were once again being denied their basic human right to earn a legal living.