Small-scale fishers from Petrusville in the Northern Cape claim that an entrance fee to sections of the Vanderkloof Dam restricts their access and potential to earn a living.

“We attended a meeting were fishers and anglers who currently use the  Vanderkloof Dam were told that entrance to the Dam will now cost R30,” commented Quinton Benadie, a fisher from Petrusville.

“They know that we can’t afford that,” Quinton continued.

In a region with widespread poverty and chronic job shortages, fishing is a critical source of income that can mean the difference between survival and destitution.

The community of Petrusville is about 10km from the Dam. The fisherfolk walk to access the kraal at the dam. Fishing has been part of their lives and a food security source.

Small-scale fishers are being blocked from kraal fishing near the dam wall. Fishers have been arrested inside and outside the zone for either trespassing or fishing illegally. The recent entrance fee introduction further increases the oppression of the fishers.

Talking to Masifundise staff who visited Patrusville this week, community members told Michelle Joshua, Nico Waldeck and Nosipho Singiswa that the urgent need for them now is removing the R30 entrance fee that was introduced in April by the anglers.

“We want the entrance fee to go away, without access to the dam, I cannot make an income,” lamented Robert Arriffier, a young fisher from the community.

“We suffer because access is granted to those who drive cars and use fishing as a sport, yet we, the people who depend on this resource stay in poverty,” lamented Pinkie Kula, a middle aged lady who usually goes to the kraal.

Vanderkloof Dam is the site of the Rural Fisheries Programme (RFP) undertaken by the Department of Ichthyology. Fisheries Science at Rhodes University has been contracted by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to investigate the potential of the fishery at the Dam. Masifundise is working together with Rhodes in this project.

The Vanderkloof Dam project is the first project around the issue of inland fisheries for Masifundise. The aim is to organise, mobilise and empower the fishing communities dependent on the dam, decreasing poverty and increasing food security.

“Our work is to make sure that communities are self-sustainable,” commented Michelle Joshua.  “We will mobilise this community and help it gain food security” she continued.

Another Side of the Story

Today, Masifundise met with Temba Mathebula the conservation manager at the Vanderkloof Dam for the Department of Environmental Affairs. Themba, who was called to a meeting by those who use the damn for recreational fishing informed Masifundise that the decision to make fishers pay for access is not finalised.

“We are yet to make a decision on this matter because there are some issue that we as the department have to solve first” Themba told Masifunie Staff, “ We have been told by the group that called us into a meeting some of the fisher’s cannot afford the amount, thus we are looking at lower rate.

When Masifundise mentioned the fact that the fishers in Patrisville do not know about this agreement and they are against it he said “ I was off the view that this was an agreement reached amongst the community, hence they called the department to propose this idea and we listened to it.

Themba further stated that he will then have to hold the propose and raise the issues we have raised with him with the group of fishers that he will meet tomorrow.

“As the department we conserve the area for the benefit of the community and we are aware that there are people who depend on the dam for the livelihoods. We then cannot allow people who do not depend on this resource for livelihoods to close the access for those who do, “said Themba, I will then have to hold off the process until the community speaks in one voice” he continued.

The R30 entrance fee on the Petrusville side of the dam was suppose to commence on 1st September, but due to the communication Masifundise had with the fishers and the DEA representative, the process is now halted until a solution that will not discriminate the fishers of the town is found.

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