Hondeklipbaai fishers demands apology for SANDF raid

Snoek: Picture: Simone Kley

Snoek: Picture: Simone Kley

Published Mar 22, 2024


Cape Town - The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has confirmed that it held a joint operation with an SAPS task force to conduct routine operations in Hondeklipbaai at the request of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) in a bid to prevent illegal underwater mining and fishing.

The operation shocked the fishing community along the West Coast in the Northern Cape last week, with fishers saying it violated their human rights and threatened the availability of snoek ahead of the Easter weekend.

Carisa Soudens, ward committee member and chairperson of the Elwandle Women’s Co-operative in Hondeklipbaai, said they wanted an apology from DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy.

In a letter addressed to Creecy, Soudens said: “I would like to invite you, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, to please come to our community and to apologise for what happened here over the past two days.

“Then we can discuss how our rights as a fishing and coastal community can be addressed.

“On Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16, there was panic in our community.

“The DFFE Fisheries compliance officer came here with the army and the police and started stopping fishers and confiscating fish from people whose fishing rights you have recognised.

“The beach and landing site were closed off to ordinary residents and children, and there was panic and fear in our community.”

The Green Connection’s community outreach co-ordinator, Neville van Rooy, said there were more peaceful ways of dealing with the situation, rather than bringing in the army.

“This is what’s so disturbing about all of this. Not only is this type of approach from the government somewhat reminiscent of the Marikana Massacre, but how can we, in 2024, still be seeing apartheid-style bullying tactics and brute force play out in local communities when more equitable solutions can be found?”

The DFFE, however, said no person was prevented from going on to the beach or going to sea.

“The enforcement activities were not aimed at preventing legitimate permit holders from fishing, but were intended to prevent illegal catches and ensure that legitimate and legal fishers are not adversely affected by illegal operators.

“The department is also attending to the issuing of all outstanding smallscale permits.”

The SANDF said: “(We) can confirm that on Saturday, March 16, 2024, the SANDF and SAPS joint task force were conducting routine operations in Hondeklipbaai along the coast at the request of the DFFE, which is responsible for deterring illegal underwater mining and fishing.”

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