Western Cape Coastal Links leaders from seventeen communities in the Western Cape held an important Provincial meeting in Paternoster and Langebaan from Tuesday 19 to September 21, to discuss issues affecting SSF ‘s, the organisation and specifically its future working relationship with Masifundise Development Trust. This was important since Masifundise’s role as Secretariat for CLSA for the past five years was coming to an end.
CL leaders came from Melkhoutfontein, Vermaaklikheid, Arniston, Buffeljagsbaai, Gansbaai and Kleinmond from the South Coast, while Khayelitsha was the only branch from the Cape Metro area present.
The West Coast was represented by Doringbaai, Elandsbaai, Laaiplek, Steenberg’s Cove, Laingville, Paternoster, Saldanha, Langebaan and Mamre, while apologies were received from Pearly Beach, Hawston, Philippi, Hout Bay, Lamberts Bay, Papendorp and Ebenhaeser.
The meeting was opened and in the welcoming comments, Naomi Cloete – CL leader from Paternoster thanked Masifundise and the group for coming back to Paternoster. She continued to share her despair in the delay of the finalisation of the SSF Policy process and the struggle to keep the fishers within the parameters of the law. She requested a moment of silence for the 5 fishers who have died at sea in the recent months and went on mention the many others who have died waiting for the SSFP to be fully implemented and its benefits realised.
The decision that Masifundise will cease to serve as the Secretariat for CLSA, as discussed at the CL NEC meeting in August, was tabled by Christian Adams in his capacity of Secretary of CLSA. Leaders were encouraged not to regard this as a bad thing. He reminded them of their numerous discussions around their independence and reassured them that MDT was not abandoning CLSA but that the decision to work differently with CLSA was developmentally sound. The decision to work on a more local and provincial level was embraced and Masifundise’s input with regards support to CLSA during the transition period was welcomed. Discussions about how the WC would function and how it would remain part of the CLSA will be ongoing.
Opportunities to strengthen CLSA was discussed and by the end of the session, CLWC delegates were energised and encouraged by the new working approach and about building CLSA into a strong movement.
Peter Owies the delegate from Doring Bay on the West Coast said that the meeting gave clarity on the way forward.
“Into the future we will have a parallel relationship, one in which Masifundise will play an advisory role, and CLSA will have stand on its own feet,” said Owies.
We must restructure, get the communities’ commitment and bring our membership up to date.”
Owies said it is also now time to revisit the aims and objectives of CLSA, and see if the aims and objectives are still relevant.
The latest recommendations from the Scientific Working Group on West Coast Rock Lobster were also discussed, as well as the DAFF inability to finalise the implementation the Small-scale Fisheries Policy.
Delegates emphasised that drastic action needs to be taken to defend the rights and livelihoods of fishers and fishing communities. Many creative protest actions ideas were suggested, and commence, after which communities will also protest on a regional level.
A letter to the Minister and the Deputy Director General (DDG) for fisheries, expressing concerns and unhappiness with their slow-pace of delivery was drafted by the group.
John Hill the delegate from Gansbaai, felt that the meeting came just at the right time, and that it is time for fishers to stand up and made their voices heard.
Ronnie Gelant from Melkhoutfontein also felt that the proposed cut in the West Coast Roc Lobster Allocations is a big issue and that it was good that the meeting looked at the issue.
At the end day 1, three working groups were selected to look at different issues viz. Planning a Paternoster Fish Festival to coincide with International Fishers Day in November; Looking at joint marketing opportunities for the WC; Communication and letters to the DAFF Ministry. Further to this, the group also launched a provincial email address.
Hilda Adams from Mamre said that the PEC meeting highlighted important issues and breaking up into different groups to discuss the issues was helpful, especially the feedback from the groups.
At the Langebaan meeting on the 20th, news was received that the DDG was going to make an announcement on the WCRL TAC the following Tuesday, 26 September. This impacted on the rest of the agenda of the Provincial Meeting and the remaining time was spent planning a protest action at DAFF in Cape Town on Friday the 22.
Excitement mounted as the leaders shared the news regarding the event and setting plans in motion from a distance. By the Friday, fishers from all over the Western Cape and Northern Cape gathered at the offices of DAFF, and made their voices heard.
The protest action that was planned at short notice- 2 days, was a great success. It resulted in a delay on the announcement being made, and a commitment from the DDG to have further talks with the fishers.