Small-scale fishermen in the Eastern Cape have asked Parliament to make sure that when Operation Phakisa – the government’s plan to develop economic activities in the ocean space – gets implemented, not only big business should benefit from it but also the poor must get a slice of the cake.  

During public hearings on the Marine Spatial Planning Bill, hosted by the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs in East London, the fishermen asked for a share of the ocean economy.

“We know when Operation Phakisa finally gets implemented it will come with many opportunities and it is the big tenderpreneurs with nice offices who will get the big tenders, our appeal is that can you please make sure that the poor fisherman who works in the ocean also benefits from Operation Phakisa,” said Mr Joseph Kriel.

“When Operation Phakisa comes in, we don’t want the tenders to go to the politically connected individuals, we want that business to come to us,” he said.

Parliament must have a proper consultation with us as soon as Operation Phakisa is implemented, to know where to get business. We also want bursaries to study marine and sea life, so that we can participate in the development of the ocean economy.

Even though the Bill is about governance and management of the ocean space, most members of the public who attended the public hearings in East London used the opportunity to highlight the plight of small-scale fishermen operating in the province.

“In 23 years the fishermen and Khoisan are still marginalised and living in poverty, that’s unconstitutional and violating the rights of the people. Police officers harass us, they wait for us when we come out of the sea, take our fish that is supposed to feed our children,” said Mr Chris Arendse.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Philemon Mapulane, said the issues raised during the public hearings that are not related the Bill will be referred to the relevant department for a follow-up.

“Substantial inputs made today here were mainly around fishing, there is a relevant department on fishing, what we will do, we will take the issues raised, pass them over to the relevant department to investigate further. After having listened from what was said yesterday and today, in the main the issues raised are very serious and affect the lives of those who work in the fishing industry. I think there is something wrong happening in the fishing industry. I don’t know what it is but I will ask our colleagues to follow it up,” said Mr Mapulane.

“The majority of the issues that you are raising are not related to our Committee – we will make sure that those issues are followed up,” he said.

The Chairperson said it was difficult to respond to the issues that did not relate to the Bill itself, because the said people were raising quite critical issues but talking to the wrong audience.

By Sakhile Mokoena

2 August 2017