Smallscale Fishers on their challenges & proposals about policy; ARC Board recommendations

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

25 November 2016
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider and finalise the nomination of persons to serve in the ARC Board. The members agreed that the 22 CVs received should be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), which had the responsibility for selecting members of the board.

Twelve different small scale fishers (SSF) groups presented on their readiness to participate in the implementation of the small scale fisheries policy (SSFP). Most of them were ready for the implementation, although a few were not. The groups raised some of the challenges which could hinder the implementation of the policy. The first was that the DAFF was allocating fishing rights to the commercial and recreational sectors, while the SSF were being ignored. They therefore called on the Committee to make sure that the Department stopped the allocation of fishing rights to the commercial and recreational sector until what was to be given to the SSF had been decided.

The groups also expressed dissatisfaction over the provisional list released by the Department, as it excluded so many people who depended on fishing for their livelihood. A group also suggested that fishing rights should be given to communities for life, and not for a period of time. A youth representative urged that youths should receive training for the catching, marketing and management of fish. Another challenge was the ten years’ experience which the fishers were expected to have before they could apply and be recognised. Women were also discriminated against on the basis of gender, and this should be looked into.  The DAFF should stop the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) which was now absorbing available stocks that were needed for the creation of a ‘basket of species’ which would make economic sense in the SSF sector.

In summing up the key issues which had been raised by the fishing communities, the Chairperson recommended that there should be an inter-departmental committee to assist with the implementation of the policy. 

Meeting report

Agriculture Research Council Board: Nomination of candidates

The Chairperson said the Committee had received a letter from the Speaker which indicated that there were vacancies on the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) Board. In terms of legislation, the Committee was required to nominate eligible candidates. Members of the Committee were, at the last meeting, also requested to go to their constituencies and invite members of their communities that met the requirements, to apply. Altogether 22 CVs had been received. The structure of the legislation gave power to the Committee to nominate, but not to make decisions. It was a challenge for the Committee to get the CVs of people and not to know the outcome of the applications. This could create conflict between the Members of the Committee and the constituencies that they represent. She therefore proposed that the 22 CVs be taken to the Department for it finalise the applications and sort out those who qualified or not.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that the proposal was a wise approach, as long as the Committee received feedback on who qualified or not.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) seconded the proposal.

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) also agreed to the proposal.

The Chairperson told the Department to report back to the Committee in respect of those that had been selected. The report of the Committee with regard to the request of the Minister to nominate members that would serve on the ARC would be submitted to the National Assembly as per protocol.

The secretary of the Committee then read the report to the members.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) agreed to the report, and said that the reasons why the Committee was sending the CVs to the Department should be indicated in the report.

Ms Steyn agreed with the views of Mr Filtane.

The Chairperson said that the reason cannot be on the report but would be reflected on the minutes of the meeting of the committee.

Mr Mathale moved for the adoption of the report.

Ms Steyn seconded the adoption of the report.

Stakeholders’ state of readiness: implementation of small-scale fisheries policy

The Chairperson addressed the delegations at the meeting to make presentations on their state of readiness to participate in the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy, including the challenges and proposals. She said they would each be allowed ten minutes. Members were asked not to make political statements or addresses, but to ask questions as they related to the presentations by the groups.

Masifundise Development Trust

Mr Naseegh Jaffer, Director of the Trust, said that the Trust, which had 4 000 members, had been part of the drafting of the policy from the beginning. The Trust was in support of all that was in the policy. The policy had transformation agenda which included women and youth and the poor. The Trust was ready for the implementation of the policy, but not with an empty bucket. The community had gone back to the place where it had been since 2005. The Committee should make sure that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) desisted from allocating any further commercial fishing rights this year and even next year, especially the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) fishing rights until what would come to the small-scale communities had been decided. The Trust had made this call many times, and this was not the first time.

The fishers who everyday went into the oceans, starting from early in the morning to earn a living for their families and produce food for communities, women who scoured the beaches and rocks on the beaches in search of food for their families, people who lived in poverty but who lived on the coast where the bounty of the oceans was plentiful, were unable to do so because the law and allocation of legal rights to harvest from the sea had been taken away from them. These rights had continually been given to private companies. There were 480 permits available country-wide, but there were probably only four left for the small scale sector.

The small scale fisheries (SSF) policy was a welcome development that had the potential of returning the rights of the small scale fishers, but the implementation of the policy was being done in a distorted manner. The Portfolio Committee should intervene to allow for proper implementation of the policy. So many concerns had been raised concerning the implementation of the policy. These were that:

  • Fishing for the small scale fishing community was a customary right that the community had been practicing for centuries. The regime of allocating fishing rights came as a result of the plundering of the marine resources by large commercial fishing companies. Since then, the small scale fishing communities had been side-lined.
  • Life-time customary rights should be given to the small scale fishers, not just for a duration of time. People had customs for life and not for a period of time, and so should the customary right of fishing. This issue was raised after the DAFF had issued a Government Gazette notice that pertained to the implementation of the policy. The gazette titled ‘Duration of small scale fishing rights’ gave three years’ fishing rights, or maybe five years at the whim of the Minister or one of his delegated authorities, to the small scale fishers. The gazette, through its content, seemed to bring about a regime in which the small scale fishers were reduced to a community without decent sustainable livelihoods after three years, when the fishing rights might have expired.
  • It was discriminatory to grant long term rights of eight years and more to the commercial fishery industry while the small scale sector was given a mere three years.

The success of the SSF policy and the cooperatives would depend on what resources were being allocated to the fishing communities. The Portfolio Committee should engage with DAFF and request the Department to allocate fishing rights to the commercial and small scale sector (SSS) at the same time. The Department should not give the small scale sector what was left after allocations had been made to commercial companies.

The Department should furthermore revoke and review all line-fish allocations, net fishing rights, and white mussel rights that had already been made. It should not allocate commercial rights for the West Coast Rock Lobster until it was clear to make allocations for the small scale fisheries policy as well. The Department should stop further allocation of commercial fishing rights.

At the moment it seems as if there would only be a few net, line and other species of lesser value fishing rights to be allocated for the basket of the small scale sectors. This should not be so, as the commercial fisheries have benefited from the oceans for a long time whilst the small scale fishing communities have been robbed of their rights to sustainable livelihoods.

Coastal Links Northern Cape

Mr Elroy Adams, a member of the organisation, said the communities were ready for the realisation and reality of the implementation of the policy. They did not even know what they would get from the policy. What was in the basket for the small scale sector must be balanced, and be for the sustainability, survival and benefit of the community. The community wanted what came from its sea. The only problem with the policy was its implementation, which was side-lining the small scale sector. This should not be so.

Coastal Links Eastern Cape

Mr Ayanda Yekani, on behalf of the organisation, said that it was ready for the implementation of the policy. However, communities were losing hope in the policy, because the DAFF was allocating rights to recreational and commercial companies. The Department did not care about the small scale sector. In 2012 there had been an experimental project with abalone in the Eastern Cape, and the Department had been checking the availability of abalone in the area. This abalone was taken away by outsiders, such as the Chinese, who were poaching the abalone. The Committee should make sure that the Department stopped the allocation of fishing rights to the commercial sector until the implementation of the SSF policy.

Coastal Links Kwazulu-Natal

Mr Israel Mbele, on behalf of the organisation presented its readiness to participate in the implementation of the policy. He then continued in a vernacular language, which can be heard on the PMG website.

Coastal Links Western Cape

Mr Norton Dowries, on behalf of the organisation, said that it was ready for the implementation of the policy. The organisation had been involved in the writing of the SSF policy. At the moment, the implementation of the policy was contradictory to the spirit of the policy itself. The contradiction related to the verification and identification of the small scale fishers. Some of these fishers had been fishing for 40 to 50 years, but they had been left out. The Department was allocating rights to the commercial sector, especially for the net and line fish, which were the ones that the small scale fishers depended on for a sustainable livelihood. The basket of the communities was shrinking, because of the allocations to the commercial and recreational sector. The problem was, what would the small scale sector get if the Department continued to allocate rights to the commercial sector? The small scale fishers also did not have security. Allocations to the small scale fishers should be sustainable so that they could be able to send their children to school. The Department should review all allocated rights, and give first to the small scale fishers who were now recognised as a sector, before giving to the commercial sector. The Department should stop the allocation of West Coast Rock Lobster.

Discussion

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked how the Chinese got involved with the business of abalone, Had they been given fishing rights? Why were the people who had been fishing for 40 to 50 years been left out in the allocation of rights?

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked if the small scale sector had the infrastructure and manpower to harvest the oceans if the allocation to the commercial sector was stopped. What did the small scale sector need from the government to help it meet and be compatible with the commercial sector? In terms of processing and packaging, what was the plan and focus of the small scale sector?

Mr Filtane asked if the small scale sector had been sufficiently consulted during the drafting of the policy. What had been the response of the Department when the concerns of the small scale sector were raised? If the implementation of the policy was halted, what did the small scale fishers want from the government if the allocation of rights was stopped?

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) said that she had consulted widely with fishermen on the west coast and the most pronounced issue was the huge divide amongst the fishers, especially between Coastal Link, Masifundise and other fishers. Allegations of corruption had also been raised in some places. Was the small scale sector now speaking with one voice? What factors had led to the backwardness complained of? What did the small scale sector want to see in its basket? Had there been any indication by the Department and expectation by the small scale fishers as to what kind of income would be derived from the SSF policy? Were the communities represented by the organisations happy with the published list of beneficiaries under this plan?

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) asked if the small scale sector was suggesting that the allocations for three years must stop, and that customary right must be granted for life?  Was the basket empty or not full enough? More clarification was needed on the security of fishers. Clarification was needed as to the timeframe that people were required to be informed about the registration and re-registration in KZN. Was the application not clear for people to indicate their age and gender?

Mr Mathale said that from the presentation, the policy was good, but its implementation was the core problem.

Ms Steyn asked if illegality was still persisting when the allocation of rights and permits was made. Were there fishermen who still thought that the Department were not handling things the way they should? What did the small scale sector need from the government in terms of infrastructure? Was the small scale sector still using the boats given to it by the Department of Trade and Industry? The Committee had visited Ezemvelo a few years ago and since then there had been no progress. What was currently happening there with regards to registration? Did the small scale sector have a problem working in the cooperatives’ way? Were there successes and challenges? Were there enough fishes in the sea? What was the proposal of the small scale sector on what should be given to it and to the commercial sector, in terms of quota?

The Chairperson said that what the KZN presenter tried to explain was the Deputy Minister had decided to end the contract with Ezemvelo, and this was through the instruction of the Portfolio Committee. However, when the contract between Ezemvelo and the Department had ended, the officials from Ezemvelo had formed and registered a company which was employed by the Department to do the same work. She asked Ms Steyn to rephrase her question for clarity

Ms Steyn asked if the company mentioned by Chairperson was the only company responsible for registration.

The Chairperson asked the small scale sector (SSS) to tell the Committee what could be done to force the Department to implement the policy, because stopping the allocation of rights meant that those still on the sea must continue to fish. What was the best way to implement the policy?

Response

Mr Jaffer responded that it was important to understand the Act. The Marine Living Resources Act as amended and signed off by the President in 2014, stated that there was a commercial sector, a recreational sector and small scale fishing that needed to get permits. Small scale fishing replaced subsistence in the amended Act. The Department had a system that managed how many fishes and what species were harvested. What the organisation was saying was that of all the total harvested fishes, there should be a split as to how many should go to the three sectors in the Act. Nobody was saying there were not enough fish in the sea -- even the scientists said there were enough fish. All the small scale sector was asking for was a reasonable amount that would enable it to make a living.

The call was not for an outright halt to fishing, only that the commercial and recreational sector should not be allocated fishing rights. The Department had always shared what was available between the commercial and recreational sectors, but the small scale sector had never received. The basket was empty, because the Department had allocated whatever was available to the commercial and recreational sector.

The Chairperson asked how the community knew that their basket was empty -- had they seen the allocation already?

Mr Jaffer responded that the Department’s scientist had said that 480 line fish permits were available to be given out, and there were probably four left to be given out to the small scale fishers. Four permits could probably provide fish for 16 persons. There were about 50 000 fishers who were dependent on small scale fishing, and if only 16 received a permit, then the basket of the small scale fishers was empty. The Department’s scientist decides how much Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was available to be harvested. The question was whether the Department was doing anything to allocate fairly. The call was for the Department to allocate fairly. The call was not for a halt to the implementation of the policy, but to halt the allocation to the commercial sector. The community approved of the policy, and says yes to it -- it says yes to the existence of the commercial sector, but let it be shared fairly. The small scale sector also contributed to women’s empowerment and the gross domestic product (GDP), but all the commercial sector did was to harvest, sell and export. The small scale sector also added more value to the economy, and should not be abandoned.

Small scale fishing was a community activity and not an individual activity. Commercial fishing rights were allocated to individual companies. Cooperatives had already existed for a long time – the system worked, and would continue to work. Government must make it work.

The small scale fishing sector had fought for interim relief, but it did not need interim relief again. The interim relief had been riddled with corruption and complexities. What the SSS wanted was an open and transparent process that recognised who a small scale fisher was in a fishing community. This process was defined in the SSF policy. If the process in the policy was followed, then everything would be alright. The policy was not about recognising only small scale fishers, but about allocating baskets of fishing rights to them. The small scale sector did not want to compete with the industry as long as it had the legal space to fish. Some of the capacities and rights of the small scale communities had been taken away from it through legislation, and these needed to be returned to it. The government should help in this and must not repeat the same action of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The DTI had given boats to those without legal fishing rights.

Mr Yekani responded to the question of abalone. In 2012 there was an experimental abalone ranching project in the Eastern Cape. One of the requirements for the experiment was the need for quality divers. The Department had gone through that process, and there had been service provider. The problem of the Eastern Cape people with the project was that in the first year, 31.5 tonnes had been received by the community, but in the second year the community harvested with two service providers, and had received about ten tonnes. In 2014, about 12 tonnes were harvested, but till today nothing had been paid to the Eastern Cape. Abalone was available in the Eastern Cape, but the problem still remained the requirement of the Department that the people participating must have diving certificates. There were issues of poaching which had been reported to the relevant authorities. The issue was that the offices of the authorities were very far, and by the time they arrived the poachers would have disappeared with the abalone.

The Chairperson asked who the people that had left with the abalone were.

Mr Yekani said they were the Chinese. These people also used long nets to catch all the fish, whereas the community was allowed to use only one line and fishing rod.

Mr Adams said the organisation was ready for the implementation of the policy and looked forward to it. The policy must be implemented in such a manner that it was sustainable for the communities. The policy had been written with the participation of the communities.

Mr Israel said the registration process in KZN took less than 24 hours. The communities paid out of their own pockets to travel to the registration venue for re-registration. When these people got there, they had been told that the system would reject them if they registered at that venue, so they had had to wait for another date to be set. When the date was issued, they had been told to go to another venue, which was a long distance away, at their own expense.

Responding to the issue of service providers, KZN Wild Life was about to be phased out and the people working on the KZN Wild Life had teamed up to form a company which was registered. There had been issues in another community, where some of the community members had been killed by the compliance officer. It was the same people who had been working for KZN that had teamed up to form this company. When these people came back, people recognised them even though they had changed their appearance -- but it was still the same people. When they came in for registration, people had started lamenting. This was reported, but not resolved, since the community could not convince DAFF that these people must not do the registration. The people were scared to go there and register.

The Chairperson asked the name of the company, and told the Department to note the name and remove it.

Mr Norton said he agreed with the views of the Eastern Cape on the issue of security. Security here meant absence of a pension fund, medical aid, a road accident fund or an unemployment insurance fund (UIF).

The process of verification was a disaster, which was why some people were left out. In some communities there were three towns at one venue. Each town was verified as a fishing community. Many people on the interim relief list were not supposed to be there.

The Chairperson asked that the interim relief list should be submitted to the Committee.

Stakeholders’ state of readiness: implementation of small-scale fisheries policy (Cont.)

Small Scale Fishing Forum

Mr Yonga Boy, Chairperson of the group, presented on its behalf. The group had participated in a lot of programmes and road shows during and until the final drafting of the SSFP. The group was established through the stakeholder engagements of the DAFF. Most of the organisations interacting with the DAFF were not really representing the interests of the communities, but rather the interests of the beneficiaries in the industry.

The group did not encourage the stopping of allocations of fishing rights to any sector. The DAFF must find a way to put food on the table of the SSS.

In terms of the implementation of the policy, there were various barriers that hindered the people living along the coastal areas from fishing. An example of the barrier was the need to possess ten years’ experience, which hindered the youth and women from fishing, despite living along the river. This requirement violated the constitutional right of people to access food. The people that would have the ten years’ experience would be the white people.

Public education in terms of the implementation of the policy had not been conducted widely enough to spread the information about what was expected of the community. The beneficiaries of the interim relief had been encouraged by the organisation not to apply, because they did not welcome the new entrants to the SSF. The NGOs did not like community involvement in the fishing industry. Last week, the group had a meeting with Masifundise in which the latter group had said it did not welcome new entrants to the fishing industry, and that was why it was fighting the government to make sure that there was a delay in the implementation of the policy. During the verification and registration process at Langa and Hout Bay, people were rejected from participating in the process because they were women. The group had sent its delegate for confirmation, and it had been confirmed that they were rejected because they were women and lacked ten years’ experience. The Portfolio Committee should look into this matter.

The result of the recognition process was an insult to the communities. The reason was that out of 200 persons that had applied in the community, only 25 had been successful. How had the Department come up with these 25 people? The recognition process was done by some members of the community, but the recognition was not considered. The Department had used its strategy to reduce the beneficiaries in the community. The Department should inform the Committee about its recognition process and strategy.

The major issue being experienced by the communities was the deliberate delays by the Department. The process of the implementation had started in 2012, and until now no benefit had been derived. When the DAFF was approached to tell the community the reasons for the delays, it was yet to respond. What it had done was to extend the interim relief so that the beneficiaries of the interim relief would continue to harvest in the sea, whereas the people of the community were hungry and facing food shortage. The Portfolio Community should create a mechanism to speed up the process. At this moment, no one was allowed to catch on the sea except the commercial companies. The Committee should help the community with communal fishing permits, especially in this festive period.

South African United Fishing Front (SAUFF)

Mr Pedro Garcia presented on behalf of the organisation. Efforts by the Department to implement the policy had failed the communities. SAUFF had been supportive of the registration and verification process in the SSF policy, but had withdrawn its support due to fatal flaws in the system. The other reason for the withdrawal was because the parallel Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) had moved critical resources required for SSF basket species, which made economic sense away from the small scale fishers and fishing communities.

The current furore in the SSF verification process, which was preceded by the registration process, could be ascribed to the failure of the DAFF’s administrative functions. The DAFF had acknowledged the literacy and numeracy shortcomings in most of the fishing communities by making staff available to assist the fishers and fishing communities. The staff had helped the SSF applicants to complete their forms to the satisfaction of the receipting officers. It was therefore mind-boggling that the majority of the applicants had been refused and were being compelled to produce a significant trail of paperwork with their appeals. Only 30 days had been granted for the appeals process, and SAUFF had proceeded to request an extension to the appeals period. The DAFF had acknowledged receipt, but had failed to respond at the time of the writing, which was 21 November 2016, and also the cut-off date for the Western Cape SSF appeals.

The registration and verification processes were flawed, and this had resulted in a large number of non-deserving applicants featuring on the ‘provisional successful list’. The fear of reprisal, coupled to the existing level of distrust in fishing communities, guaranteed that fishers would not comment on the ‘provisional list’.

The levels of understanding of the SSFP, amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act, the SSF implementation plan and the SSF regulations by the majority of the fishers, indicated a failed consultation process. In many cases, English had been used as the primary language of communication, as were the application forms, information brochures, leaflets and other forms of printed media. There was no consideration of the local and human dynamics of the fishing communities.

The DAFF was still determined to continue with the FRAP processes, which were now absorbing available stocks that were needed for the creation of a ‘basket of species’ which would make economic sense in the SSF sector. The extension of the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) allocations for a second year was also a matter of concern, as the TAC formula was split heavily in favour of the big companies.

The fear of excluding small operators from the high end of value chains could be overcome through intensive training and skills development programmes. Collective or cooperative forms of ownership had the potential to ensure a consistently high quality supply chain which could easily compete with other bulk suppliers and also ensure that communities enjoyed the same benefits as any other business along the value chain.

The SSS was challenged with limited resources for a myriad of existing bona fide fishers, many of whom were excluded from within the fisheries’ rights allocation processes. Given this, SSF would receive allocations that were not economically viable to sustain themselves and their families.

New entrants to the small scale fisheries sector, especially people under the age of 35, should be encouraged to fish and be monitored by experienced fishers for a period of two to five years. These new entrants should be fairly compensated during this period. After this period, those who actively participated should be vetted as SSFs and allowed membership within the SSF model, whatever that model would be.

Youth Group of Small Scale Fishers

Ms Mulondo, a young woman representing the group, also raised concerns over the requirement for ten years’ experience before food could be accessed. This requirement violated the constitutional right of the youth, and had rendered those who were breadwinners in their households unemployed. The DAFF should enrol youths in a skills development programme that should start early in 2017 as a way to encourage youth involvement in the fishing industry. The parents of some of the youths had died in the fishing industry -- some had never returned, nor were they buried. She also urged the government to recognise the education of the youth in the fishing industry and educate the youths more on the processes of catching the fish, marketing and management. The government should also recognise the responsibilities of the youth in their homes, as some of them were the breadwinners in their homes. The youth should be included in the small scale basket for the month of December, to help them improve their livelihood while waiting for the full implementation of the SSFP.

South African Fishing Communities Forum

Mr Gerald Cloete, Caretaker: Steenbergs Cove and Sandy Point fishing communities, presented on behalf of the organisation. The forerunner of the SSF had been interim relief, and had been coming for the past 14 years. More than 550 on average per community were currently registered, and more than 33 communities were part of the registration and verification process.

The 2007 judgment of the Equality Court had paved way for the interim period in which the Department had been given an opportunity to get a small scale fishers policy in place. This judgment had also mentioned the amount of interim relief permits that were needed to be issued to ensure that whilst the Department was busy formulating and finalising a policy, small scale fishers needed to provide for their families. This amount had been 1 500, and was later increased to 2 000. This number never took into account that this was only a fraction of the fishers who were 100% dependent on the sea as their primary source of income. Unfortunately, the judgment that was intended to relieve pain had created animosity among fishers in the different communities, who were all in search of an opportunity to provide for their families. This brokenness was still haunting the communities.

The practical implementation of the judgment had created hostile environment, where the DAFF was public enemy number one. The identification of who the beneficiaries needed to be was problematic, as the numbers of the needy far exceeded the availability of permits.

The criteria for registration was in many circumstances manipulated to marginalise women, youth and the disabled, which also created further animosity between the communities and the DAFF.

The bad ghost of interim relief went as far as destroying relationships between the communities, and DAFF officials were threatened annually when the process of verification started, and this left an irreconcilable relationship. This breakdown of trust had set out the platform for the implementation of the small scale policy, and may probably continue to exist.

The interim relief had created deep scars, and the implementation phase of the policy had already opened wounds that had almost healed. The provisional list had also left a bad taste and turned the excitement into anger among members of the communities.

Other challenges to the implementation related to the fact that no announcement had been made on what the quantities would be. It was also crucial for the communities to know what the basket of species consisted of, as a basket with only low value species would lead to more hostility and poverty within the communities. Most of the intended beneficiaries of the policy were fishers and not CEOs and managers. Although training was covered in the policy, the community needed to look in detail at what the training was and what was needed. It was also of importance that all relevant departments should come on board to ensure that the small scale industry was a success.

The communities under this organisation were ready to participate in the implementation of the policy.

Hottentots Holland Fishers Association

Mr Dullah Aziz presented on behalf of the organisation. The fishing communities represented by this organisation did not trust the integrity and honest implementation of the policy. The main reason was that the initial format of cooperative system to be implemented had changed drastically since the idea was made known to the communities. Other reasons were that DAFF policies were seldom or never implemented and applied as drafted. What the DAFF said and what it did were seldom or never in accordance with what had been decided upon by legislation. The DAFF also had a tendency to select its favourite representatives in most communities – those who they preferred to negotiate with, or include in discussions pertaining to community issues. The poor and the marginalised felt exploited, abandoned and left to rot while a handful of manipulators normally benefited and enriched themselves to the detriment of these poor fishers. The DAFF changed its policies without considering and liaising with communities about their intentions. Many of the deserving people were left out of the system while the poachers and fish sellers were successful in their applications.

The criteria to qualify were disproportionate, contradictory and exclusive of women and youth. The criteria stated that one must be a SA citizen who associated with, or resided in, the relevant small scale fishing community (SSFC); must be at least 18 years old; must have historically been involved in traditional fishing operations, which included catching, processing or marketing of fish, for a cumulative period of at least ten years; and must derive the major portion of his or her livelihood from traditional fishing operations and be able to show historical dependence on fish, either directly or in a household context, to meet food and basic livelihood needs.

In order to be considered for the granting of a fishing right, at least five recognised small scale fishers from a SSFC were first required to successfully apply for registration as a primary cooperative in terms of the Cooperatives Act of 2005. The problem with this criterion was that out of the 76 interim relief dispensation beneficiaries, quite a few (definite numbers still unknown) in the Helderberg area were unsuccessful in their applications. Most of them had not applied due to having been informed they did not need to do so, and a predetermination had already been made prior to the official application as to who would be excluded.

The rest of the proposal pertaining to registration as a primary co-op related to a very long-term process whereby poverty and joblessness would increase, rather than meet the whole objective of the implementation of the new fishing policy.

Very few of the fishermen were business-minded, and that was exactly where exploitation of these vulnerable people would increase. The whole policy proposal looked good on paper, but whether it would be achievable remained an issue. This was because most of the poor would be left with nothing but sorrow and hope for a better future. People had been dropped from a system they believed would have accepted them. People now spent hard-earned money meant for their survival on train and taxi fares to appeal for a right which they should have been granted from the outset.

Mr Aziz said the communities represented were not ready for the implementation, as there were many unhappy fishermen. The basket of species was still unknown to the community. If only five people were allowed to register at the initial co-op, what happened to the rest? The community did not understand the language of the application

Discussion

Mr Ntshayisa asked for clarity on the assertion that the Department had its own favourites. How did the Department pick and choose the favourites? What stakeholders were the Small Scale Fishing Forum formed from?

Mr Maloyi sought clarification on the exclusion of people from Langa, Nyanga and Philippi on the basis of gender. Allegations about the state capture, threats and flawed processes should be given to the Committee in writing so that it could intervene and engage with the Department. Why had the group chosen to answer to the name Hottentots Holland? The allegation that the Department had changed policies without informing the communities should be clarified.

Mr Filtane asked how the Small Scale Fishing Forum wanted the Department to help it put food on the tables of the 46 communities that it represented. Why did the organisation want to appeal against the processes of the registration and verification? What should be done to help people understand the registration and verification processes?

Ms Jongbloed asked what could be done differently to rectify matters, especially for those who were not properly helped during the registration and verification process.

The Chairperson asked that the names of people fronting for commercial companies should be submitted to the Committee. Ms Mulondo should submit the names of the youths who lost their parents at sea to the Committee so that they could get what was right for them. What form of education did the youth need? The issue of education was paramount, especially considering that there was a scarcity of specialists in the area of fishes. The Committee would make sure the Department funded the university or college fees of the youths. The priority of the government was education, and youths must be encouraged to go to school to become doctors of fish and researchers that would tell the country about the resources in the sea. What was the starting period of the education? Going to school did not need a protocol, and must be settled first before all other concerns.

Response

Mr Boy said the community he represented had elected him as a caretaker to work on fishing matters in the community. The organisation had meetings with the Department, and had been engaged in the stakeholders’ meeting. It worked together with the Fisheries’ development workers in terms of road shows and community meetings.

The people that had been rejected were based on gender and ten years’ experience. The people of Gugulethu were dissatisfied with the process of registration. In Philippi the people were rejected and their forms torn up, especially by the women. Before one entered, he or she would be asked if he/she had ten years’ experience, then they would look at the women to say they would not have ten years’ experience because they were women. The women on that day were crying and shouting. Mr Craig Smith, the Director of the SSF, had been called but was not reachable, and then Mr Abongile Ngqongwa, the Deputy Director of SSF, had been called but was not available. The calls had been to report the matter at Philippi and the fact that women were rejected based on their gender, and not only on their lack of ten years’ experience. The people that were rejected were recorded so that the list could be forwarded to the Department, but the Department had not responded to it. In one of the meetings, the communities had been told that they could not appeal against the process, but only against the results. Their concern was for the Department to review the process because of the gender discrimination.

What made the interim relief fail was the system and strategy of dealing with the communities. The communities were ready to be a secondary cooperative. The community would be able to grow and sustain itself as long as the Department could give the communities a chance under guidance of the management, as  prescribed by the policy.

Most of the NGOs were misrepresenting the communities they claimed to represent. They did not even know the communities, and were fighting the government not to accept new entrants into the fishing industry.

Mr Garcia said the evidence would be sent to the committee. The reason why the community was seeking an extension to the appeal process was because 30 days was insufficient. Some of the people had to go the sea and may not be able to meet before the time. These were poor people that needed to work before they could eat. However, the application for an extension had been granted by the Department and the community was thankful for that.

The recommendations of the organisation were:

  • Immediate suspension of all FRAP processes to avoid absorbing further resources into the commercial and offshore sectors;
  • Immediate suspension of the SSF verification processes to avoid a further waste of taxpayers’ money;
  • Immediate set up of a panel that could deliver a verification process that would be acceptable to all;
  • Enhancement and maintenance of ‘interim relief’ and ‘subsistence fisheries’ sectors until such time that the SSFP could be implemented in an environment that would yield positive results for beneficiaries;
  • Immediate set up of a panel to investigate alternative livelihoods that could either supplement the income of SSF within the SSFP, or could allow SSF to exit the industry should they chose to;
  • Launch community-based aquaculture pilot projects which could eventually link into SSFP activities once the latter was operational;
  • Develop a grassroots consultation process which took into account the diverse human dynamics of South Africa’s fishing communities; and
  • Ensure that any and all negotiations pertaining to small scale fisheries adhered to the code of ‘informed and prior consent’ of fishers and fishing communities, and within the context of sustainable livelihoods and food security.

Mr Cloete said that on pape,r the SSFP was the best thing that had happened for the communities. The communities had waited for a long time for the policy to be recognised. The implementation of the policy should happen between six to eight months. Fishing rights, in practice, were in the hands of the whites, whereas on paper it said it was in the hands of the blacks. People were selling their rights to the highest bidder.

Ms Mulondo said she would provide the list of those who had lost their parents at sea. There were youths without grade 12, and it would be hard for some of them to apply to go to university. The government should give the youths short-term training. This would enhance their knowledge and skills about fishing, from catching to marketing. A foundational course was needed for the youth to move forward. The educational project could start early 2017.

The Chairperson told the Director General of the Department to implement the education of the youth project.

Mr Aziz, on behalf of the communities represented by the organisation, said that it was not ready for the implementation of the policy. There were too many unhappy fishers and fish cleaners. The basket of species was still unknown to the community. Most of the people in the communities did not understand the language of the applications, because they were not educated. There should also be a review of the provisional list.

The age restriction of 18 years should be rescinded and reviewed, as it hindered so many people from participating, especially the youths. There was no way one could be 18 years old and have ten years’ experience, whereas youths started working from the age of 15 years. When these youths were left out, the next thing was poaching. The safety of the fishers must be ensured.

The Chairperson said that the review of the policy was a process which would take a long time, and would go through the cycle again.

Stakeholders’ state of readiness: implementation of small-scale fisheries policy (Cont.)

After the lunch break, the Chairperson said the Committee would investigate why some of the groups that were supposed to present before the Committee were not present.

Women Fisheries of Imizamo Yethu

Ms Veronica Mngomezulu presented on behalf of the group. The implementation of the policy had caused cracks and separation among the communities. The first problem related to the registration of the SSFP. Some of the people went off with their forms because the venue had been full, and never completed them. These people were the original fishers. The other problem was that people were not informed properly and most of the messages from the Department where sent to cell phones. Most of these fishers did not have cell phones and it was unclear whether they all got the message. When the provisional list came out, nobody wanted to talk to the other. The list that was pasted in the community hall was taken away by the people, because some had not been accommodated. Nobody wanted to talk, because they were afraid of being killed.

The Chairperson asked who they were afraid of.

Ms Mngomezulu said they were scared of being killed by angry fishermen. Some people on the list were not supposed to be there, and nobody wanted to talk about it. Those that did talk, did so in secret. The list that came out showed that only 28 persons in the group had been successful. Some of the unsuccessful applicants were widows and children whose fathers had died at sea. The community was not sure what it was expecting from the Department.

The Chairperson requested the presenter to present in her language so that the members could easily grasp what she was saying.

Ms Mngomezulu then presented in vernacular. (This can be heard on the PMG website)

Discussion

Mr Ntshayisa said that the report was complicated, because the language was not easy to grasp. What hadhappened to the forms that were taken out during registration? Were they filled in and returned or not? Did the community elect their caretaker? More clarification was needed about the fishing rights granted to poachers.

Mr Mayoli asked who had told the people that if they had quotas, they could not appeal. Who bought the vessels that were no longer in use?

Ms Jongbloed asked if the 28 names on the list of provisional quota holders cut across the 15 cooperatives. How many people who were fronting for big companies and pretending to be small scale fishers had made it on to the list?

Response 

Ms Mngomezulu responded to the questions raised by the Members.

The requirement on the form said that the applicants must go to the drivers of the boats. There were people pretending to help the fishers and working on the boats, but they were not fishers.

The Chairperson requested the names of those people.

Ms Mngomezulu continued that some of the people did not have cell phones to know that they had to go and fetch their appeals. The boat given to the people never worked for the people. Some white people were acting on behalf of black people, but the latter did not receive anything.

The caretaker was a person that saved the community every day without any payment. The Department should look into the corruption perpetuated by some caretakers. People were complaining that the caretaker was not always available. In some cases, when the fish came out of the sea, there was no one to sign the fish out, no one to sign what was caught or not. This issue was complained about to the Department and led to a fight amongst the communities.

The people selling the fish to the marketers do not pay the communities the proper amount that was due to them. The Department should be monitored to know what they were giving to the communities. There should be transparency as some of the fishermen were not educated. The Department should check the fishers that got the permits so that other people would not be left out.

The Chairperson asked that the presenter put down other grievances in writing. The insurance and safety of fishers should be ensured.

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)

Mr Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator, Cosatu, gave the presentation. The main challenges faced by the Congress with regard to the implementation were corruption in the allocation process, depletion of stocks, poaching, small scale communities’ poverty, the allocation bias towards big business and outsiders, and increasing unemployment.

To help solve the challenges listed above, Cosatu recommended there should be an open public audit of all fishing allocations to help address corruption concerns; deeper public scrutiny and accountability of all quota allocations; a complete ban on all public representatives, politicians, government officials, business leaders and immediate family members from quota allocations; senior Fisheries Department and Ministry officials and advisers and their immediate family members could not have quota allocations; detailed continuous lifestyle audits of senior management officials of the Ministry and DAFF were needed; a two-tier fishing framework, to provide an equal split of all in-shore fisheries between commercial and small scale fishers, with a bias towards the latter; an exception should be made for abalone, which should be allocated only to the small scale fisheries sector; abolish the commercial lobster trap method of capture, and only allow the hand-hauled ring net method of capture; no allocation could be made to persons who were not from small scale fishing communities or companies; the Department must allocate an increased and dedicated budget and staff capacity to provide institutional support to small scale cooperatives; DAFF offices and quota allocation application processes should be made accessible to small scale fishing communities; a detailed plan to promote and ensure access for persons with disabilities to fishing should be developed and implemented; there should be a complete ban and its enforcement on all foreign fishing trawlers in all South African waters and a detailed plan to publicise and enforce all labour laws and the recently adopted Merchant Shipping Amendment Act, to ensure that all fishing workers enjoyed their full labour, health and safety rights.

Continuous oversight, scrutiny, accountability and intervention was needed on the part of the Portfolio Committee.

Discussion

Mr Mayoli asked why abalone should be allocated to small scale fishers. Why had women and youths been excluded in the presentation? What other labour-related issues should the Committee look into?

Mr Filtane asked why COSATU suggested the banning of big business. Was it not discriminatory to bar people without fishing experience from the allocation of rights?

Mr Mathale said that to deny people of fishing rights because they lived outside of the coastal area was not right.

Ms Jongbloed asked if COSATU had offshore fishing rights.

Response

Mr Parks responded that even if it was discriminatory, the constitution allowed positive discrimination. Not everyone could be a fisherman. Some people in big business who had fishing rights did not have fishing experience. The small scale fishers should be considered first, before big business.

There was not enough abalone to go round, and so it should be left for the small scale sector.

The women and youths were not excluded. There were more government efforts on the empowerment of women and youths, but limited work was being done for the disabled persons.

Big business could afford to cut back at times when there was a scarcity of species, but the SSF could not afford that. The fishing communities should first be sorted out, before big business.

There were good labour laws. The only problem was the enforcement of the laws. The government should provide resources for the development of aquaculture.

Mr Park said that Ms Jongbloed’s question about whether COSATU had offshore fishing rights, would be reported to the Committee when he had checked.

The Chairperson said that the issue of denying fishing rights to people who did not live close to the marine areas were complicated, and may be difficult to resolve.

She then highlighted the key issues raised by all the groups. These were:

  • Duration of the contract;
  • The Department should review the current TAC to accommodate the SSF;
  • FRAP should be put on hold until the promised basket was fair and equitable to meet the SSF objectives;
  • Training for divers and participation in the abalone sector;
  • Beef up control, monitoring and surveillance to minimises poaching;
  • The registration and verification process should be revisited;
  • The increased protected marine area by the Department of environment was affecting fishermen;
  • Exclusion of women and youth based on qualifications;
  • Implementation of the policy was different from the objectives;
  • Cooperatives should be supported by the government to ensure the success of the SSF;
  • The Department should review the TAC on the WCRL, net fish and line fish;
  • There should be an inter-departmental committee to assist in the implementation of the policy;
  • Fisheries’ security matters should be taken up by the Department so that the fishers were insured;
  • Departmental officials should help in simplifying the complex appeal process;
  • The Department should look at the ten years’ experience requirement;
  • Allocation for the youths; especially those whose fathers died at sea;
  • The Department should clarify the issue of allowing one cooperative per community;
  • The Department should use formal communication channels consistently when dealing with fishers to avoid information not reaching the intended people.

The Chairperson said that any issue not raised should be submitted to the secretary of the Committee.

Mr Mathale asked the Department to start working on the issues raised.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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