Fishing organisations and communities met in Cape Town on Monday, 9 May 2022 to discuss the Mining Indaba held in the city this week by the national government and other stakeholders. The fishing industry discussed their experiences and some of their grievances against mining exploration on the shores of South Africa.
Gathered with the slogan “Fishers Speak Out”, they said mining exploration impacts the environment and marine life and threatens their livelihoods.
Food For Mzansi spoke with Ntsindiso Nongcavu, chairperson of Coastal Links Eastern Cape, an affiliate of Inyanda National Land Movement.
Zolani Sinxo: You recently met in Salt River, Cape Town; please tell us more about this meeting and what was its objective?
Ntsindiso Nongcavu: The Fishers Speak Out [gathering] highlighted the challenges and threats facing coastal and fishing communities caused by extractive practices and industries. Fishers Speak Out is supported by the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Coastal Links South Africa, Inyanda Land Rights Movement, Masifundise Development Trust, Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), People’s Dialogue, WoMin African Alliance and the Right to Say No campaign.
The negative effects on communities directly impacted by mining and other extractive industries, whether inland or coastal, continue to be ignored. Affected communities are plagued by social and environmental degradation, including the loss of control of land and other natural resources. Extractive industries have a well-documented history of air, land and water pollution which leave people working in mining and communities in mining areas vulnerable to diseases, and the promise of decent jobs a pipe dream.
Your organisations have recently been in court trying to prevent the government from conducting mining exploration experiments on our coasts and inland. How has this been going? Are you winning any of these battles, and what has been the response from government?
Fishing communities have long warned about and are resisting commercial and extractive practices, which not only harm the ocean, but also disregard the human and cultural rights, as well as livelihoods of coastal communities.
A recent example is the successful High Court challenge by the Wild Coast communities, which interdicted Shell from conducting seismic blasting. This court challenge also represents the fishing communities’ right to say no to economic practices that are detrimental to their livelihoods. The court case further revealed evidence of the “irreparable harm” to marine life and coastal cultures that can be caused by commercial practices such as seismic surveys.
On 30 and 31 May and 1 June, we have a court case where we challenge two ministers and Shell in the Gqeberha High Court. These are not the only ones; we also have one in the West Coast and on the southwest coast where we are challenging another gas exploration company on similar matters.
We are saying no to oil and gas [exploration and extraction] in our oceans.
Can you give us an overview of some of the challenges that are faced by the fishing communities when dealing with government?
As the fishing communities our rights are being violated by our own government because they use municipalities and chiefs to make decisions on behalf of the people.
There’s a great future for us in the marine industry and we see great economic value for communities, however, we want government to listen to the people and not take decisions on their behalf. We all belong to this country, and I think our voices should be heard.
As the fishing communities we are trying to find ways to support our struggle against gas exploration because our government has failed us.
Our [submission to the Mining Indaba] is for the government to take us seriously and respect our customary rights, and to give us recognition as the coastal communities.
How do you think the sector, working with other stakeholders, can make their voices heard?
Through the Fishers Speak Out campaign we will continue to build [a united] and strong voice and support each other. Fishers Speak Out will provide an opportunity for the fishers to share their current challenges and experiences of the growing commercial extractive threat to the ocean and fisher communities. Fisher Speak Out will also provide a platform for fishers to strengthen advocacy strategies and solidarity.
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