Civil rights organisations call for investigation into political interference in awarding of fishing permits

The fishing industry fears the problems over tenders to run the fisheries department's vessels could cost the industry dearly. Picture: Jason Boud

The fishing industry fears the problems over tenders to run the fisheries department's vessels could cost the industry dearly. Picture: Jason Boud

Published Feb 10, 2024


Due to concerns from communities dependent on fishing being sidelined as a result of alleged political interference in the fishing industry, civil rights organisations have called for an urgent investigation into rumours of permits being awarded to the politically connected.

One of those organisations, the Cape Forum, has stressed that rumours about ‘political interference’ in the fishing industry and allegations that it had become a breeding ground for cadre deployment must be urgently investigated.

The organisation said this was urgent given that the possible interference meant that the livelihood and culture of the Cape’s small-scale fishing communities, who earned their bread and butter from the industry, were now in serious jeopardy.

Tommy van Zyl, Coordinator at Cape Forum, said fishing communities played an important role in local economies by, among other things, providing job opportunities and maintaining the culture in coastal areas.

Van Zyl said the concern’s emanated following the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE) recent decisions regarding the allocation process for fishing rights.

He explained that while the organisation recognised the importance of implementing sustainable fishing practices, while at the same time managing marine resources responsibly, they did not however support an action that effectively jeopardised the well-being of fishing communities for political gain.

“The decision to grant fishing permits to individuals who do not depend on fishing for their livelihood raises serious questions about the motivation behind these grants.”

“We are particularly concerned about the potential impact these allocations, which appear to be made to political friends, could have on these communities. An economic crisis is facing families who have often been fishermen for generations, while fishing permits are handed out to businesses who want to resell them at huge profits,” said Van Zyl.

He said it was for this reason that they were demanding an urgent and thorough investigation into these allegations to ensure transparency and accountability in allocating fishing rights.

“We call on the DFFE to reconsider the allocations of fishing rights, taking into account the real needs and contributions of those who are directly dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihood. Cape Forum also demands an end to any practices that prioritise political interests over the well-being of fishing communities.”

“At a time when the economy is shrinking and interest rates are rising and therefore also resulting in an increase in the price of food, South Africa’s small-scale and medium-sized commercial fishers are being deliberately cut out of the economy. This policy is unacceptable,” added Van Zyl.

Peter Mbelengwe, Head of Communications at DFFE, said the organisation was not the only group that had taken up the issue of rights with the department.

He said as many as 12 groups had taken the minister to court in this regard.

Mbelengwe said however as the matter had been taken to court, the matter was sub judice therefore they could not discuss any details at the moment.

Saturday Star

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